That user review you are reading might be fake

By on August 27, 2012
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About one-third of all user reviews on the Internet are a lie.


We have all read, and maybe even decided on a purchase, after going through the many user reviews for a product we are interested. Websites like Amazon offers hundreds of user reviews for all sorts of products, such as books, games, movies and hardware, so finding an opinion on a particular item is not that hard to find. But how many of those user reviews are genuine, how many of them are fake?

According to University of Illinois data-mining expert Bing Liu, about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake , made up, or purchased, by marketers or retailers in order to sell a product. Liu’s 2008 research showed that 60 percent of the all the product reviews on Amazon have five stars, and about 20 percent have four stars – which means 80% of the products available on the online retailer are fantastic.

“The wheels of online commerce run on positive reviews,” said Bing Liu to NYTimes. “But almost no one wants to write five-star reviews, so many of them have to be created.”

In fact, fake user reviews is a business in itself. Websites like offer book publishers user reviews for a fixed sum. So, for $499, you can buy 20 online reviews for your book. For $999, you can get 50.

“I was creating reviews that pointed out the positive things, not the negative things,” GettingBookReviews’ Rutherford said. “These were marketing reviews, not editorial reviews.” Rutherford claims that one of his client went onto become a best seller based on reviews published by his website.

This puts a huge doubt over user reviews found on sites like Amazon, where it would be impossible to differentiate between a review written by a genuine buyer, or by a marketing firm who has never used that product.

You can read the entire story over at NYTimes. It’s an incredibly good read and exposes the extent to which publishers and manufacturers will go to spin their product favorably.

Will you trust user reviews from now? Let us know in the comments below.


Mufaddal Fakhruddin is the Editor for IGN ME and thinks writing in third person about himself in an about me section is weird.

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