Ah the online review. It brings immediate feedback from happy customers. And wouldn’t it be nice if the unhappy ones would just quietly go away into the night. But latest news from the world of online reviews says all is not happy on the Western or Eastern or any geographic front. Some businesses are bent on acquiring positive reviews by hook or by crook – and by crook is so much easier. From book reviews to car dealerships to hotels and more, all can be faked and padded to appear more positive. And beyond that, there are shady business owners who are not content to acquire positive reviews for themselves until they have also manipulated the machine to provide negative reviews for their competitors.
A few auto dealers were upset when Google removed numerous good reviews from their sites, including Google+ Local, in an effort to purge fake reviews. A Wall Street Journal reporter observed one case where a company’s employee posted positive reviews for its brand on different sites. Somewhere between ten and 30 percent of online reviews are thought to be fake. To control for this some doctors and dentists prohibit patients from posting reviews online. Violators can be sued for defamation, slander and libel. Meanwhile there are fake positive reviews masquerading as negative reviews.
Among the top accused organizations is TripAdvisor. A recent study showed that since TripAdvisor doesn’t have a required verification process in place, small hotel owners “game it” with fake reviews. Statistics show that small hotels are ten percent more likely to receive five-star reviews on TripAdvisor than on Expedia where proof of a stay is required. However, the folks at TripAdvisor note that they have filters in place and once they discover fraudulently good or bad reviews they have policies to deal with that. In an interesting twist, TripAdvisor replaced its slogan “Reviews you can trust,” with “Reviews from our community.”