Amazon has aimed a gun at the wrong people’s heads as the company recently filed a suit in King County Superior Court in Washington State against more than 1,000 people for offering to post fake reviews on the online retailer’s site.
The move, which has foolishly focused solely on the reviewers, has been deemed by some as “one of the most aggressive attempts yet by a major U.S. e-commerce company to fight back (against fake reviews),” according to U.S. News & World Report.
The Amazon sellers paying off these reviewers, however, are being given a break that they don’t deserve.
A Forrester Research study showed that approximately 45 percent of online shoppers consider a product’s reviews before purchasing an item, according to U.S. News & World Report. However, users posting fake reviews for profit is nothing new.
The seemingly archaic act, sometimes called “astroturfing” has led to Amazon using complex computer algorithms and hired investigators to scour its users’ postings.
Adversely, it has also led to various tools being created to aid sellers in finding people willing to post reviews that Amazon deems “false, misleading, and inauthentic.” An example is Fiverr.com, a website that allows internet users to offer various services for as low as five dollars.
The 1,114 defendants targeted in Amazon’s lawsuits, all currently identified as “John Doe,” are facing legal action for writing five-star “awesome” reviews for products they have likely never even used or purchased.
“Suing the reviewers is a way to discourage them from doing it again,” said Michael Pachter, analyst for the security firm and investment bank Wedbush.
However, merely victimizing those who offer their praises for profit won’t stop the wave of false reviews from pouring into the site. It takes two to tango, and Amazon seems to be failing to target the real culprit: the products’ sellers.
A gun is nothing without a trigger finger, and a variety of Internet postings offering fraudulent services is nothing without an employer willing to shell out money for his or her products’ high ratings.
Amazon is wasting profits and resources pursuing harmless postings of people desperately hoping to make a quick dime.
Amazon’s rules prohibit paid or fictional reviews, according to ABC News. However, Amazon’s lawsuit alleges that those posting on websites such as Fiverr are the ones reaching out to the sellers and offering to write the reviews under their names.
The sellers are still the ones actively hiring those reviewers, going as far as agreeing to send them empty envelopes to make it seem as if the reviewers purchased the products.
Amazon also has to find a solution to its problem of anonymity in the fraudulent reviews. Some paid reviewers promise to use multiple accounts and IP addresses to leave the reviews, meaning the only information Amazon knows about their target is their online handles, according to NBC.
Finding the sellers, however, would be easier for the company since they would be registered within the website.
Ultimately, the discretion of a review is left up to the consumer. As Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said, “Online shopping is a leap of faith.”