Facebook urged to shut down fake Amazon review groups

07/08/2019

Facebook is still failing to shut down groups on its social network where fake Amazon reviews are bought and sold, according to a new report.

Facebook urged to shut down fake Amazon review groups

The study, from consumer group Which? claims to have uncovered several active groups that recruited people to write fake testimonies.

Back in June, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) criticies Facebook for the "troubling evidence" it had seen of a marketplace for people seeking fake reviews on eBay and Amazon.

At the time Facebook said it agreed with the assessment, which did not claim that the company was encouraging the reviews, and said that it would cooperate by developing measures to tackle this content.

However, Which? said: "More than a month on we've found that little has changed on Facebook."

The consumer group said it had found "dozens of Facebook groups incentivising product reviews" and analysed 10 of these in detail, with more than 100,000 members between them.

For its investigation, Which? said it joined 10 separate Facebook groups looking for recruits.
In a 30-day period, it said, recruiters added more than 55,000 posts to the groups that offered free products to people who wrote highly-rated reviews on Amazon.

Messages to the group offered various rewards if users were able to post reviews. One, seen by Which?, offered to refund anyone buying a product as long as they left a review with a video or pictures.

The consumer group claimed that Facebook's algorithm also helped redirect people towards other groups offering similar services.

"On the Facebook account that we used, similar groups regularly appeared on the 'suggested for you' page, making it easy to find more.

"In addition, some administrators on groups we had joined were found listing alternative groups to join in case the original is shut down," the consumer group warned.

Natalie Hitchins, the consumer group's head of products and service, said the finding "demonstrate that Facebook has systematically failed to take action".

She added: "It is deeply concerning that the company continues to leave customers exposed to poor quality or unsafe products boosted by misleading and disingenuous reviews.

"Facebook must immediately take steps to not only address the groups that are reported to it, but proactively identify and shut down other groups, and put measures in place to prevent more from appearing in the future. The CMA must now consider enforcement action to ensure that more is being done to protect people from being misled online."

A Facebook spokesperson said: "We don't allow people to use Facebook to facilitate or encourage false reviews. We have removed nine of the 10 groups Which? reported to us and are investigating the remaining group. We continue to improve our tools to proactively prevent this kind of abuse, including investing in technology and increasing the size of our safety and security team to 30,000."

Which said the CMA should consider "enforcement action" to make Facebook act.
CMA senior director George Lusty said it was "unacceptable" that Facebook groups promoting fake reviews were reappearing.

"Facebook must take effective steps to deal with this problem by quickly removing the material and stop it from resurfacing," he said. "This is just the start - we'll be doing more to tackle fake and misleading online reviews."

A spokesman for Facebook said: "We don't allow people to use Facebook to facilitate or encourage false reviews."

It said it had removed nine of the 10 groups Which? reported to it and was investigating the remaining one, it said.

The social network added that it was improving the tools and technologies it used to find the groups.

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