Fake News, Fake Followers, and Fake Reviews Under Scrutiny
April 30, 2018
The days of heading out to the front step for the daily paper are over. Now, men and women around the world are logging onto their computer or swiping through their smart phones to get the local news. Unfortunately, the news isn’t always as accurate as it should be, with many websites reporting on false accounts or events, which are later determined to be untrue.
Another area of online reporting that has fallen prey to hoaxes is reviews. Online ratings and reviews has quickly become the bread and butter of both ecommerce and brick and mortar businesses. Many consumers take to the internet to determine who is best in their trade, and online reviews play a big part in whether a company or product is chosen or not. Apparently, just like the Twitter follower scams of previous years, companies are now buying fake reviews to falsely represent their products to consumers. This may not be problematic to the company, but it certainly shines a poor light on competitors who have less but genuine reviews, as well as consumers who may wind up with a service or product below par based on a shining review.
Reports of Falsities
The problem has grown so large that even national news reports have been released on the false claims of products and services being posted online. The Washington Post took to the news stands on April 23rd, 2018, writing that items like kitchen knives and rain ponchos have been receiving fake reviews from individuals commissioned to write about the products without having actually tried them first. These individuals often receive payment in the form of an online gift card or PayPal money transfer.
Unfortunately for these businesses hiring fake review writers, there have already been consequences with more to come. In fact, Amazon and Facebook have both cracked down, delivering penalties of banishment or deleted posts when it’s learned that the companies have been dishonest in their reviews.
Big businesses like Facebook and Amazon are hurt by these reviews because it makes the rest of the honest businesses online seem like they could be fake too. This makes consumers wearier of trusting the companies or buying from them. Amazon has claimed that only 1% or less of the product reviews on their website is fake, but even 1% is too much for some consumers, who have already begun turning elsewhere for genuine information about products or services.
Fake News Penalties
The end of 2017 marked the beginning of the big Bitcoin ban, which made news across a multitude of digital reports. Facebook, Google, and other online entities banned all offers, ads, and other marketing campaigns geared toward digital currency. This wasn’t due to a dislike for Bitcoin itself, but because the news and offers for the currency was becoming so clouded by false news and dishonest offers. Consumers were being flooded with this spam and had begun to notice, which opened the doors for a loss of users on both sites.
Penalties for false news fall plainly on sites who are purposely hoping to deceive the public with misinformation rather than comedy sites posting spoof stories. As long as your website depicts a genuine outline of what it is offering the public, Google will rank accordingly, or so it seems.
Faking on Social Media
Social media accounts are a top area for spam and fake news or reviews to appear. This is because they are peer driven, and until Facebook or Twitter officials notice the issue, it will continue to grow. The original social media scam, of course, was buying followers, which is more prominent on Twitter; although, it is becoming a trend for YouTube as well, where users aren’t able to earn money without a minimum number of followers.
Follower numbers can directly impact ranking on search engines like Google, as well as authority for genuine followers and business growth. While it has flown under the radar for years, it is beginning to become a problem, much like fake news and other falsehoods.
Fake Reviews and Search Engines
So, why fake it? There are many reasons businesses are faking their reviews, but the main reason probably isn’t what you think. Consumers might assume that the reason businesses are being dishonest about products is to sell more of them through these shining reviews, but the most likely reason is to boost rankings on search engines.
Search engines like Google rely on user interaction as a method of rating popularity, relevance, and authority. Sites that have large numbers following and interaction are more likely to be leaders in their fields. This means that Google might rank you higher if you have tons of comments, high reviews, or a greater number of followers on your social media account. The algorithms of Google are still a mystery, but something we do know is that content and relevance is key.
How the Problem is Being Solved
Now, it looks like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other companies being affected by these falsities are fixing the issue by banning users, deleting faked content, or reducing rankings of those using spam. This might not solve the issue completely, but it’s certainly making waves in the online business world, warning future businesses to avoid this practice and keep content as honest as possible. Buying reviews and followers might help at the moment, but it could hurt in the long run.