Online review scams are using both science and the law to keep them legit

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Online reviews for many people are a key way of researching products and services. I’ve blogged about this before, and a year or so later, online reviews still can’t easily be trusted. In fact, according to this article the business of fake or “shill” online reviews is growing.

The good news is that science is helping to identify some of these fake reviews as reported by this article in The Verge. Additionally the law is catching up with the fact that negative fake reviews hurt businesses. We’ve been victims of this before and I’m delighted to see that in Missouri recently.

I think free speech is awesome and you should have the right to post a negative review about a business if you feel that way, but you shouldn’t fake a review in order to gain a competitive advantage. What I think is next on the horizon legally is liability for companies that post fake positive reviews of their business such as Yahoo recently getting caught doing this at the Apple store. While posting a positive review isn’t directly damaging to other companies, it nonetheless is unfair and misleading and steers consumers away from competitors and eventually does lead to damages.

Similarly, consumers should suffer consequences from posting fake online reviews. In this story reported by the Consumerist, a bad review is used as extortion to get what they want from a restaurant. Shameful behavior for sure, but I expect the landscape of online reviews to get more and more complex now that Google owns Zagat and has been merging it’s reviews with it’s on.

Reviews are big business and, of course, we’re delighted at the great positive reviews we get on Google, Yelp, Angie’s list and other places. If we’ve been helpful to you in the past, we’d sure like a review from you (and no, we won’t give you that $100 gift card for it!!!) Need to learn how to write a review people will read? Check this link out.

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