Online retail giant Amazon is suing the administrators of 10,000 groups on the social media platform Facebook for orchestrating "fake reviews" in exchange for money or free products, Amazon announced Tuesday.
"Our teams stop millions of suspicious reviews before they're ever seen by customers, and this lawsuit goes a step further to uncover perpetrators operating on social media," Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of Selling Partner Services said in a company press release. "Proactive legal action targeting bad actors is one of many ways we protect customers by holding bad actors accountable."
Amazon said it plans to use the suit, filed in King County, Washington, near its Seattle headquarters, to uncover information and remove bogus reviews.
"Brokers" in these groups would often offer members a payment or other valuable items in exchange for complimentary reviews of their third-party stores.
Amazon said it was one of the "pioneers" to offer reviews in 1995 to help customers make "more informed" purchasing decisions and wants them to represent the true "shopping experience" of users.
One such group — "Amazon Product Review" — removed earlier this year by Facebook, now called "Meta," had more than 43,000 members and allegedly tried to hide its activities from Facebook investigators by "obfuscating" the text of letters in "problematic phrases," according to Amazon.
The company said it uses 12,000 employees around the world to detect fraud and abuse directed at its stores from various social media sites including Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter.
"Today's legal action is the latest step by Amazon aimed at stopping fraudsters who attempt to post fake reviews in Amazon’s stores. In the past year, legal action from Amazon has shut down multiple major review brokers targeting customers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Spain," Amazon's statement said.
"However, the nefarious business of brokering fake reviews remains an industry-wide problem, and civil litigation is only one step.
"Permanently ridding fake reviews across retail, travel, and other sectors will require greater public-private partnership, including collaboration between the affected companies, social media sites, and law enforcement, all focused on a goal of greater consumer protection. Amazon remains eager to continue to partner with all the relevant stakeholders to achieve that mutual goal."
A spokesperson for Meta told the Daily Mail that groups soliciting or encouraging fake reviews violates its terms of service policy.
"Groups that solicit or encourage fake reviews violate our policies and are removed," a Meta spokesperson told the news outlet. "We are working with Amazon on this matter and will continue to partner across the industry to address spam and fake reviews."
Amazon said Meta has removed "more than half" of the 10,000 groups identified since 2020, and that it has stopped more than 200 million "fake reviews" during that time.
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