Facebook failing to tackle fake product review factories, Which? says

File photo dated 25/03/18 of the logo of social networking site Facebook displayed on a laptop. A Facebook data transfer tool
File photo dated 25/03/18 of the logo of social networking site Facebook displayed on a laptop. A Facebook data transfer tool which allows users to move all their photos and videos from Facebook to another platform has launched in the UK.

Facebook is failing to tackle fake review factories despite pledging to clamp down, according to Which?

The consumer group said it has found dozens of groups with hundreds of thousands of members on the social network, trading fake and misleading reviews on shopping sites such as Amazon.

At the start of the year, Facebook committed to taking greater action against such activity on its platform.

In May, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into fake and misleading product reviews across the internet.

Which? said it uncovered fake review trading in 16 of the top 25 groups found in a search for “Amazon review” on Facebook.

One group had more than 36,000 members, while several others had over 20,000.

Many featured posts from so-called “agents” offering everything from refunds, a commission or free products in exchange for users posting reviews, some specifically requesting five-star ratings.

A Bluetooth speaker and camping equipment were among the products Which? found in groups promising incentives for a positive review on Amazon.

For example, an Enacfire Bluetooth speaker shown in one group was sold on Amazon Marketplace – not directly by Enacfire – with 2,558 ratings, a customer score of 4.9 out of 5 and appeared as the top result on a search for “Bluetooth speakers”.

“Our research shows that review trading groups continue to thrive on Facebook, leaving online shoppers at huge risk of being duped into buying products on Amazon that have been boosted by fake reviews,” said Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?

Amazon
Amazon (Chris Radburn/PA)

“It’s clear that Facebook has not lived up to its commitment to the CMA and must urgently address the spate of fake review groups on its site, or the regulator must intervene again.

“The failure of sites like Facebook to crack down on bad practice underlines the need for online platforms to have more responsibility for content and activity on their sites.”

Facebook said: “Fraudulent activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews.

“We have investigated and removed the groups brought to our attention, some of which were removed prior to Which? notifying us.

“We will continue to invest in technology and our safety and security teams to proactively prevent this kind of activity.”

Amazon said it works with social media sites to report bad actors who are cultivating abusive reviews, as well as using machine learning tools and investigators to analyse review submissions.

A spokeswoman for the CMA said: “As a result of our action, Facebook committed to improving the way it identifies, investigates and responds to fake and misleading reviews, including introducing more robust systems and taking regular action to identify and remove the trading of these kinds of reviews on their platform.

“It also committed to regularly reviewing the effectiveness of these systems and actions.

“We’ll look carefully at these worrying findings and raise them with Facebook as a matter of urgency.”

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