Why a great review on Amazon might be five-star fakery
'Unacceptable' levels of fake feedback are skewing the market as sellers ply reviewers with gifts and refunds
At first glance the review looked helpful. “Very fast turn time,” wrote the author, beneath a five-star rating. “Fair prices. Great service. Highly recommended.” The only problem: this was not some chichi café but the Old Steine, a venerable public plaza in Brighton just beside the Pavilion.
It has a fine Victorian fountain and a memorial to Brighton’s war dead, but it has no “prices” or “service”. That is because the review was fake, bought by this publication from a man in Rangpur, Bangladesh, for just £2.80 (R50).
Beneath the surface of the apps and websites where we browse restaurants and ponder hotel bookings, there is a thriving black market in fake feedback. Reviews are bought and sold, sometimes in their thousands, on Amazon, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Google Maps, written by robots, hackers and enterprising gig workers. It is a five-star factory, endlessly churning out completely synthetic ratings...