The War On Fake Reviews Ramps Up: NY Fines Companies For Fake Yelp Reviews

from the this-could-get-interesting dept

It would appear that there’s finally a bit of a war on fake reviews. Just a few weeks ago, we noted how Yelp had sued a law firm for posting fake reviews. And a few days ago, NY’s Attorney General announced $350,000 in fines against 19 companies for writing fake reviews.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that 19 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. “Operation Clean Turf,” a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.

NY actually set up a whole sting operation, posing as a Yogurt shop in Brooklyn, asking SEO companies how to deal with negative reviews. Some of the companies offered to write up fake reviews, and suddenly NY had some targets to investigate. While many of the companies NY went after were SEO/digital marketing companies, some were the companies who hired astroturfers themselves (and the NY AG even calls them astroturfers). This includes US Coachways, a big charter bus company and Laser Cosmetica, a laser hair removal place in the NYC area.

Given just how frequently astroturfing seems to happen these days, it could be interesting to see if there’s a bigger crackdown by consumer protection agencies, arguing that astroturfing is a form of false advertising. Still, as some are pointing out, there are many reasons for fake reviews that have nothing to do with a business paying people to write them good reviews — and that’s why fake reviews may be difficult to really stop.

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Companies: yelp

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Comments on “The War On Fake Reviews Ramps Up: NY Fines Companies For Fake Yelp Reviews”

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22 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re: Tribute to out_of_the_blue! -- Seconded!

Ninja (profile), Sep 27th, 2013 @ 10:57am

Re: Re: Tribute to out_of_the_blue!
Pot, meet kettle.


Stoopid, meet stoopider!

Gosh, Mike, these are your top fanboys revealing themselves as as only capable of one-liners in response to someone they claim is beyond reach! Doesn’t speak well of the site.


Mike’s fanboy-trolls imitate him by taking no position except the pejorative.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Tribute to out_of_the_blue! -- Seconded!

Stoopid, meet stoopider!

That makes us the 3 stooges 😉

Mike’s fanboy-trolls imitate him by taking no position except the pejorative.

I’ve always stated my position in my comments. Though truth be said it seems you don’t approve it. Which in turn I couldn’t care less.

And any mentally handicapped baboon can quickly grasp what Mike thinks about it. You just like to pretend he doesn’t have a position and then you want him to provide the solution to all the problems in a way you approve. Megalomania is a psychiatric pathology I think 😉

out_of_the_blue says:

This is probably just a token show, not start of real regulation.

But I’m kind of surprised Mike doesn’t have “free speech”, undue interference with economic activity, overbearing grandstanding State Attorney General, or another of his usual objections to laws being enforced.


The punch Dan Nainan threw brought up a HIGHLY interesting bit of fakery:

Last year, The New York Times reported that Nainan was part of a growing trend of people purchasing Twitter followers.

(No link: I don’t like the source, not least because since first read, removed the hundreds of thousands figure to apparently tone it down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Still, as some are pointing out, there are many reasons for fake reviews that have nothing to do with a business paying people to write them good reviews — and that’s why fake reviews may be difficult to really stop.

They seem to be targeting fake review companies, not fake reviews in general. The latter would indeed be quixotic, but the former makes sense to me. We’re talking about companies that exist for the sole purpose of defrauding consumers. Why shouldn’t AGs go after them?

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Billy Mays here....

Billy Mays: I have my built in studio audience that I have paid money to laugh at my jokes, clap and say “Ohhhh” and “Awww!” at the appropriate times.
Okay lets begin. Behind me I have an old beat up pinto. We’ve put our Kaboom product in this car wash. We drive the pinto into the carwash and KABOOM!!! out comes a new corvette!!!
Audience: OHHHHHH… AWWWWWWW…. WOW!!! [Clapping]
Billy Mays: But wait there?s more!! If you apply KABOOM to your cell phone or home phone and the NSA tries to collect your meta-data…. KABOOM!! One of their servers at Google explodes!!!
Audience: Ohhhhhhh!!!! [Standing Ovation]

Robert says:

Re: Re:

I think it is safe to say, if they track you real indentity when you give product reviews, no one will really suffer except the trolls and producers of Crappy products. After all you have the whole rest of the internet to anonymously post it. So forced requirement for real identities on product review sites, seems quite reasonable.

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