Warning over Facebook fake review factories infiltrating platform - despite new law and threat of fines
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Facebook is still infiltrated by fake review factories, despite a new bill due to make activity illegal, with potential huge fines on the horizon. Research by Which? has shown that over a dozen groups are trading fake glowing reviews in exchange for free products or payments.
Groups are still running despite multiple interventions by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Which? has discovered 14 groups that share more than 62,000 members, trading in reviews for Amazon, Google and Trustpilot.
The consumer champion initially uncovered groups trading free products for positive Amazon reviews on Facebook in 2018 and has continued to uncover review trading groups since. Which? has estimated that groups it has reported to Facebook have had at least 1.16 million members in total.
The UK Government is set to publish its Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill which aims to crack down on fake reviews. Which? has announced that it supports the Government which would make it illegal to pay someone to write a fake review, as well as making it illegal to host reviews without taking steps to check if it is real.
New powers will be handed to regulators to fine firms who continue to ignore the rules and allow their sites to host fake reviews. Which? has also identified six groups that are trading in Amazon reviews in exchange for free products from the site.
It also identified “glaring gaps” in the action taken by social media platform Facebook to crack down on the Amazon review trading groups. Which? found that searching ‘AMZ reviews’ now gives users a warning that the term is associated with fraudulent behaviour, but searching for ‘Amazon reviews’ does not give the same warning.
One Facebook group which had more than 15,000 members had claimed to be a genuine group that was setting up testing Amazon products with its users. A video inside the group also claimed that Facebook had been asking a group admin questions about the group after members were not abiding by the rules.
The government’s Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill will ensure that online platforms must up their game when it comes to policing fake reviews before the new laws are introduced. Which? has warned that the CMA “must be prepared to actively monitor social media” and take strong action against platforms that fail to get rid of the illegal behaviour.
Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which?, Rocio Concha said:“Despite previous interventions by the regulator, our latest findings suggest an industry dedicated to fake review trading continues to thrive on Facebook, leaving consumers exposed to misleading information on some of the world’s biggest review and shopping platforms.
“The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill – including strong enforcement and tough penalties for platforms that fail in their legal responsibilities – is sorely-needed to tackle fake reviews and ensure consumers have protections fit for the digital age.”