Facebook groups offering fake reviews on companies like Amazon, Google and Trustpilot persist despite demands from regulators that tech platforms do more to address the problem, according to research by a consumer group.
Groups on the social network with thousands of members offer free products in exchange for reviews, consumer group Which? said, despite earlier interventions by UK regulators.
The researchers found 14 Facebook groups that exchange reviews for Amazon, Google and Trustpilot. Together they shared over 62,000 members between them.
Fake reviews have become one of the most persistent scourges of online retailers, with the UK government expected to make the practice illegal in the upcoming digital markets, competition and consumer billing. The bill would make it illegal to pay someone to write a fake review or submit a review without taking steps to verify that it is real.
The UK Competition and Markets Authority told Facebook to clamp down on fake reviews in 2020 and again in 2021, when the social network removed more than 16,000 groups. Which? he estimates that the groups he has reported to Facebook since 2018 have had more than 1 million members in total.
Rocío Concha, director of policy and advocacy for the consumer group, said: “An industry dedicated to trading fake reviews continues to thrive on Facebook, leaving consumers exposed to misleading information on some of the world’s largest shopping and review platforms. “.
She said the “strong enforcement and tough penalties for platforms that fail to live up to their legal responsibilities” promised by the UK government were “much needed to tackle fake reviews.”
A spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said: “Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not permitted on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews. We remove groups shared with us for violating our policies. While no app is perfect, we continue to invest in new technologies and methods to protect our users from this type of content.”
Six of the newly identified groups offered free products in exchange for Amazon reviews. One group identified by Which?, “Amazon Reviewer – Test Products,” had 15,000 members.
In a group sharing that name, The Guardian found posts that appeared to ask for UK, US and French buyers of products including a garlic mincer, wireless headphones and imitation designer handbags. Comments on the groups and the investigation of Which? it suggested that users would purchase the products and then receive a refund once they had given a five-star review.
Spokespersons for Amazon and Trustpilot said they actively monitor Facebook groups and report incentivized reviews, and that they employ teams of researchers. “By taking this action against scammers, we are going after the source of the problem and shutting down these fake review businesses,” the Amazon spokesperson said.
The Trustpilot spokesperson said: “We closely monitor Facebook groups that claim to sell fake reviews on Trustpilot, and we take strong and forceful action to combat the practice.”
A Google spokesperson said: “Our policies clearly state that reviews should be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take swift action ranging from content removal to account suspension and even litigation.”