Amazon asking social media for help in ensuring reliable reviews on its website

Amazon knows customers rely on the reviews on its website. That usefulness is being tarnished by the increasing concern that many of the product review are fake. Amazon has concluded it can’t do the job of policing those reviews on its own. This interesting blog post asks social media for help.

From Amazon’s blog:

Creating a trustworthy reviews experience

Written by Amazon Staff 4 minJune 16, 2021

Amazon strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company—offering vast selection, low prices, and fast delivery. We work to deliver on that vision and earn the trust of customers, selling partners, and brands by providing products that meet their expectations. Product reviews are an important part of that shopping experience, helping customers in their purchase decisions and providing a way for selling partners to differentiate their products from other similar items. We have more than 300 million active customers and over 1.9 million selling partners worldwide—most of which are small and medium-sized businesses that represent the majority of physical products sold in our stores. On behalf of our customers and selling partners, Amazon relentlessly innovates to allow only genuine product reviews in our store.

When Amazon first started showcasing customer reviews alongside the product for sale, some didn’t understand why we would highlight positive and negative feedback on products in our store. To us, the answer was simple—we were obsessed with delighting customers over the long term, and that required providing genuine product reviews that helped customers make purchase decisions and receive products that met their expectations. As a result, it has always been critical that product reviews accurately reflect the experience that customers have had with a product.

To help earn the trust of customers, we devote significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in our store. Over many years, we have continued to invent, deploy, and continually improve sophisticated technology powered by machine learning and couple that with expert human investigators to proactively prevent fake reviews from ever being seen in our store. We realize that we’re not perfect, and we also provide customers and our selling partners with the ability to report fake reviews that we may have missed. In 2020, we stopped more than 200 million suspected fake reviews before they were ever seen by a customer, and more than 99% of reviews enforcement was driven by our proactive detection. In addition to stopping these reviews, we take action to shut down and stop review submissions from the accounts contributing the fake reviews and to enforce the bad actors’ selling accounts trying to artificially benefit from this abuse.

We are relentless in protecting our store and will take action to stop fake reviews regardless of the size or location of those who attempt this abuse. At the same time, we do not take any enforcement decision lightly and maintain a very high bar for our accuracy in identifying fake reviews. We know that the vast majority of our sellers work hard every day to create a great shopping experience for our customers, that they are operating businesses, and that they often have many employees to support. So we work hard so that our enforcement actions do not mistakenly impact honest sellers and that we stop anyone who tries to take customers and business away from them. We take our responsibility to monitor and enforce our policies seriously so customers can shop in our store with confidence and so all sellers have the opportunity to grow their business amid healthy and fair competition. We continue to innovate on these capabilities to prevent abuse from impacting our customers and selling partners and to continuously improve our proactive detection of this abuse.

Due to our continued improvements in detection of fake reviews and connections between bad-actor buying and selling accounts, we have seen an increasing trend of bad actors attempting to solicit fake reviews outside Amazon, particularly via social media services. Some use social media services on their own; in other cases, they hire a third-party service provider to perpetrate this activity on their behalf. However, bad actors regularly try to take this transaction outside Amazon to obscure our ability to detect their activity and the relationship between the multiple accounts committing or benefiting from this abuse. As a result, we use a number of techniques, including advanced machine learning, to try to detect groups of connected entities—customer accounts, selling accounts, products, brands, and more. However, it’s also clear that this is an industry-wide battle, and we need to work together to make faster progress.

When we detect fake reviews that may have been perpetrated outside Amazon, we regularly report the activity to the social media company where it occurred. In the first three months of 2020, we reported more than 300 groups to social media companies, who then took a median time of 45 days to shut down those groups from using their service to perpetrate abuse. In the first three months of 2021, we reported more than 1,000 such groups, with social media services taking a median time of five days to take them down. While we appreciate that some social media companies have become much faster at responding, to address this problem at scale, it is imperative for social media companies to invest adequately in proactive controls to detect and enforce fake reviews ahead of our reporting the issue to them. Protecting consumers will require all of us to work together to ensure we leverage our unique knowledge, partner with each other, and stop attempted fraud and fake reviews before it has a chance of impacting consumers.

It is also critical that we hold bad actors—and the service providers that provide them with fake reviews—accountable for their activity. However, this has been a significant industry challenge. We have filed lawsuits against those who have purchased reviews and the service providers who provided them, and we will continue to pursue these bad actors through the courts. But we need coordinated assistance from consumer protection regulators around the world. Fake reviews mislead consumers, create unfair competition for honest sellers, and foster an underground economy.

Amazon will continue to enhance our proactive controls, streamline processes and tools for industry participants to work together, and work hard to hold bad actors accountable when they engage in abusing reviews. We need social media companies whose services are being used to facilitate fake reviews to proactively invest in fraud and fake review controls, partner with us to stop these bad actors, and help consumers shop with confidence. It will take constant innovation and partnership across industries and law enforcement to fully protect consumers and our honest selling partners.

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