Amazon Deploys New Weapon in War on Phony Reviews

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Amazon is escalating its fight against phony product reviews by unleashing a weapon loaded with artificial intelligence.

To make sure customers see the most authentic product reviews, the online retailing giant will use machine learning to bump up reviews it deems to be the most true to customers’ experiences, company officials told several news outlets.

Amazon’s algorithm will give extra weight to newer reviews, reviews from verified purchasers, and reviews that customers voted as being helpful. The change will also affect easy-to-spot 5-star ratings.

“The system will continue to learn which reviews are most helpful to customers and improve the experience over time,” Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law told ABC News.

The change started June 19 and may take some time to become apparent as Amazon’s new platform gradually alters star ratings and top reviews on product pages, CNET reported. Star ratings previously were averages of all reviews, so fake reviews could heavily influence the ratings.

Amazon’s latest attack on phony reviews follows its April filing of a lawsuit against the operators of three websites that it said sell fictitious praise for products. The operators denied the allegations.

Amazon’s websites have presented customers’ reviews for more than 20 years, Law said. Written reviews and the 5-star rating system became an important form of accountability and sign of popularity and quality, she said, so the new platform was something the company looked at “very closely” before instituting.

Law explained one way the new system will work. Sometimes a company will tweak a product or address customer complaints, but its product isn’t officially updated or renamed. The new system should make these small modifications become more noticeable to shoppers.

The practice of posting phony grassroots reviews is known as “astroturfing” and is also problematic for other retailers as well as travel sites such as TripAdvisor, which says it has automated systems and a dedicated team of people to “weed out fake entries.”

To what extent do you believe in and rely on online reviews when selecting products online? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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