Facebook is failing to fight fake review factories with hundreds of thousands of members, according to a new report.
Consumer Group Which? says the groups are offering refunds on Amazon products in exchange for five-star ratings against Amazon’s terms of service.
It uncovered 18 Facebook groups totaling more than 200,000 members, some dating back to 2011 and 2014 – despite Facebook’s repeated promises to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that it opposes this type of activity on its pages would proceed platform.
Within minutes of joining the Facebook groups, the researchers were being offered hundreds of free Amazon items, from dog beds to webcams, in exchange for five-star ratings.
“Facebook needs to demonstrate that it is taking effective action after repeatedly making promises to the regulator that it will crack down on the fake review trade,” says Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy Rocio Concha.
In a separate investigation last October, Which? found that fake review issues were also rampant on Twitter. Searching for terms like “Amazon freebies,” “Amazon seller of free products for good reviews,” and “Amazon free products for review” found dozens of review agents, who sent researchers 53,065 offers and 132 brands.
The majority of profiles indicated they were based in China, with others appearing to be based in India, Pakistan, and the US. They sought reviewers in countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates.
While three profiles were banned from Twitter for violating pre-Which? rules. marked, many remained active, with one listed as active since November 2017.
“Facebook and Twitter fail to adequately combat the fake review factories on their platforms, making it easy for unscrupulous fake review companies and agencies to evade weak controls by some of the largest online platforms and shopping sites,” says Concha.
“This risks seriously undermining consumer trust in online reviews.”
In January last year, pressure from the CMA forced Facebook to remove 188 groups from its site and agree to work harder to eliminate fake reviews. In April of this year, another 16,000 were abolished.
However, last summer Amazon said in a blog post that it was struggling to deal with fake review factories, claiming that it took social media companies an average of 45 days to shut them down. That number has now dropped to five days, they say.