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This week, Amazon acknowledged the fact: It has a problem with bogus reviews.
Trouble is, Amazon just blames almost everyone for unreliable ratings, and not nearly enough on the company itself. Amazon criticizes Facebook, but it doesn’t realize that the two companies share a potential problem that threatens to erode people’s trust in their service: the inability to effectively control the wide web. their big.
Learning from the masses is a promise of the digital age that has yet to happen. It can be wonderful to gauge the feedback of others before we buy a product, book a hotel room or see a doctor. However, it’s become so common and lucrative for companies and services to pay for or manipulate ratings on all kinds of websites that it’s hard to trust anything we see.
The continuum of bogus reviews raises two big questions for Amazon: How much attention does it really devote to preventing bogus customer reviews? And would shoppers be better off if Amazon re-evaluated its nature as an (almost) online marketplace?
Amazon’s rules forbid companies from offering people money or other incentives for reviews. Amazon says it captures most bogus ratings and works to stay ahead of the rule-breakers. However, the global fraud review industry is active on Amazon and everyone knows it.
According to Vox’s publication Recode, Amazon appears to have been pushed by the Federal Trade Commission and journalists to take some action to crack down on manipulated ratings.
After a Wall Street Journal columnist wrote this week about purchasing a RAVPower power charger that came with a postcard offering a $35 gift card in exchange for a review, the home supply said on Thursday that it had been banned by Amazon. (The statement is in Chinese, and I read it via Google Translate.) That led to a ban on several other major sellers who appear to have been buying reviews for years.
If government attorneys and newspaper columnists discover sellers are openly manipulating reviews, how hard will it be for the company to find them?
You’re probably thinking this is just how the world works: Be forewarned. When I read product ratings on Amazon or doctors on Zocdoc, the feedback is helpful, but I consider it to be a drop in the water.
But unfortunately, a lot of people are harmed by bogus reviews and they are not always easy for us to spot. The Washington Post recently wrote about a family misled by Google’s corrupting ratings for an alcohol addiction treatment center. Last year, I wrote about research that found that Amazon captures many out-of-purchase reviews, but only a few months later and after shoppers show signs of confusion when purchasing a product.
I wish Amazon would take more responsibility for this. In its statement this week, the company blamed social media companies and poor enforcement by regulators for bogus reviews. Amazon has a point. Online ratings fraud is big business with many triggers. Facebook and China’s WeChat app don’t do enough on forums where companies collaborate to manipulate reviews.
But Amazon doesn’t say much about what it could do differently. For example, University of California researchers I spoke with last fall found that buy-out reviews are much more common among Chinese suppliers and for products that have a lot of variety. supplier sells a nearly identical product. Maybe that means Amazon should police more closely than sellers based in China? Or would it be helpful to limit the number of sellers who list the same bathroom caddy?
Strong reviews also help sellers appear prominently when we search for products on Amazon, which creates a huge financial incentive to cheat. Should Amazon rethink how it ranks in search results? The company did not say.
On top of that, it’s disappointing that Amazon doesn’t acknowledge that bogus reviews are the result of choosing quantity over quality.
People can buy almost anything on Amazon and from almost any seller. That can be good for shoppers, but it comes with trade-offs. Being an everything store — and one that strives to operate with as little human intervention as possible — makes it difficult for Amazon to root out fake or dangerous products and corrupt reviews.
Before we go…
No more “speed filter”. NPR reports that Snapchat will be removing an app feature that lets people record and share how fast they’re driving. Road safety advocates say the feature has for years encouraged young people to drive recklessly for bragging rights.
Use WhatsApp to break the myths: During the pandemic, government healthcare workers in rural India have used WhatsApp to combat misinformation about the virus, The Verge reported. It takes a lot of time for medical staff to fact-check the information on the app, but online messages as well as live chats seem to be keeping many people safe.
LOOK AT THE HUGE: My colleague Amanda Hess talked to people who post videos online about their many exotic animals. The niche market called Pet Tube caters to our love of visual geeks like a bunch of snakes slithering on a piano, but these people also love animals — “even flocks animals are capable of rebellion,” wrote Amanda.
A Check out baby seals out of the water. The child turns from uncertainty to joy in the blink of an eye.
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