Amazon sues over fake reviews

Amazon fake reviews

Amazon sues over fake reviews

October 23, 2015

If you’re on the fence about buying a new product online, the customer reviews could significantly impact your decision. What have others thought of this item? Would they recommend it? Is it worth the cost? A bunch of good reviews could land that product in your shopping cart. A few bad reviews could have you moving on without a second thought.

But, have you considered that those reviews could be fake?

Nick Thompson, a CBS News contributor and editor says that about 15 to 20 percent of reviews are fake. These include reviews found on popular sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon and app stores.

Amazon decided it’s time to take action.

The lawsuit: Amazon looks to punish

Amazon filed a lawsuit against more than 1,000 users who have been providing fake reviews. Most reviews offer positive feedback to encourage the customer to purchase a product. Amazon argues that these “false, misleading and inauthentic” reviews are unfair to the customer and are illegal. In the lawsuit, Amazon states, “While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon’s brand.”

Amazon has identified 1,114 users from, a freelance website that offers services such as designing logos or writing press releases. Without confirmed identities, Amazon simply refers to them as John Does.

So, what were these John Does doing exactly?

  • Certain manufacturers and companies would ask these freelancers to write a positive review. Most of them offered to write false reviews for as little as $5.
  • Some reviews seemed obviously superficial, such as the USB cable review stating, “This has lit up my life.” While other users just requested the seller to tell them exactly what to write.
  • Reviewers established techniques to circumvent Amazon’s review process. These included posting from several different fake accounts and IP addresses.
  • Others went as far as arranging to have empty boxes shipped to them to make it look like they actually purchased the product.

Sound sketchy?

Yes, it does. But, it’s not the first time Amazon has tried to tackle the problem. In April, Amazon filed a similar complaint against the website “”. Since then, most websites offering fake endorsements have been shut down.

This lawsuit is unique because it’s going after individual reviewers, rather than a specific website. Amazon is not suing Fiverr because the company outlines in its terms and conditions that advertising for false reviews is banned. Fiverr responded saying, “As Amazon noted, we have worked closely together to remove services that violate our terms of use, and respond promptly to any reports of inappropriate content.”

Why now?

Just removing the reviews doesn’t reach the source of the issue, though. Thompson argues, “You want to stop both the supply and the demand. You want to get the companies to stop buying their reviews, the people to stop writing the fake reviews, and also what you really need to do is train your algorithms to identify the fake reviews. That’s what the companies really need to work at.”

Amazon updated its algorithm. Now, Amazon is working to stop the individuals writing fake reviews. Will they go after the companies hiring these writers next?

Whether for the greater good or self-serving interests, Amazon wants to make the Internet more truthful. Either way, customers can count on honest comments from real reviewers.