During the COVID-19 pandemic, the online marketplace at Amazon has witnessed more activity than ever before. This has created greater incentives for fake reviews of products, although this is not a new problem. “Review fraud” often involves people who have never used or even seen a product writing a glowing review in exchange for payment or free merchandise. As a result, consumers on the Amazon marketplace may buy products that are poor quality or unusable. About a year ago, this concern caused British regulators to investigate Amazon and Google for potential violations of consumer protection laws, due to concerns that the Internet giants have not done enough to address fake reviews. Amazon and Google pledged to cooperate with the investigation.
In addition, Amazon now has filed a lawsuit in a Washington state court against the administrators of more than 11,000 Facebook groups that allegedly have facilitated the purchase and sale of fake reviews. These reviews covered a broad range of products on Amazon marketplaces in the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan. By suing the administrators of these groups, Amazon hopes to remove fake reviews that its normal procedures have not identified. Amazon also seeks to learn the identities of the administrators of the groups, shut down the groups, and force them to give up the money accumulated from organizing the fake reviews. The lawsuit seeks a cease and desist order, in addition to damages and attorney fees.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has said that it will cooperate with Amazon in addressing this problem. Since 2020, when the pandemic started, Meta has removed thousands of fake review groups from Facebook in response to Amazon reports. Meta has noted that soliciting fake reviews violates Facebook policies. Nevertheless, these groups continue to operate on the social media network, often attracting thousands of members. Through the pending litigation, Amazon hopes to send a message that review fraud can lead to real consequences.