The online retailing behemoth filed a lawsuit in Seattle’s King County Superior Court on Tuesday, accusing the people in charge of these Facebook groups of brokering fake reviews for third-party Amazon sellers in exchange for money or free products. The groups are set up to facilitate incentivized and misleading product reviews across Amazon stores in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan, the company said in a press release.
One group identified in the complaint by the name “Amazon Product Review” reportedly had over 43,000 members before it was removed by Facebook’s parent company Meta earlier this year for allowing members to solicit fake reviews for products like car stereos and camera tripods. While “Amazon Product Review” no longer exists, Amazon alleges it could still be operating under a different name.
Through the lawsuit, Amazon says it aims to identify the fraudsters who operate these fake review schemes and shut them down. While the company already employs a combination of machine learning and human investigators to moderate reviews, Amazon says it will use any information revealed during this legal process to remove fake reviews that have escaped detection.
“Our teams stop millions of suspicious reviews before they’re ever seen by customers, and this lawsuit goes a step further to uncover perpetrators operating on social media,” says Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of selling partner services. “Proactive legal action targeting bad actors is one of many ways we protect customers by holding bad actors accountable.”
Read more: Inside the War on Fake Consumer Reviews
Amazon has also been working with Meta to address the issue of review solicitation groups. Meta has taken down over half of the more than 10,000 groups reported by Amazon since 2020 and is continuing to investigate others.
“Groups that solicit or encourage fake reviews violate our policies and are removed,” a Meta spokesperson says. “We are working with Amazon on this matter and will continue to partner across the industry to address spam and fake reviews.”
Fake reviews, and the bad actors behind them, aren’t a new problem for Amazon. In February 2021, U.K. consumer advocacy group Which? published an investigation into how companies that had been set up for the purpose of flooding Amazon sellers’ product listings with bogus praise were fueling a huge global industry of coordinated online reviews. Amazon suspended multiple high-profile sellers later that year for using banned techniques to get reviews.
Amazon’s new legal filing comes on the heels of renewed governmental efforts to quell the widespread fake reviews industry, which influenced around $152 billion in global spending last year, according to a report from the World Economic Forum. The U.K. government announced new plans in recent months to make fake reviews “clearly illegal,” while the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed to tighten related guidelines to bring them up to speed with the modern, digitized economy.
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