Amazon today announced that it has filed legal action against the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups that attempt to orchestrate fake reviews on Amazon in exchange for money or free products.
It follows similar action by Amazon earlier this year to target and shut down businesses known as review brokers that trade in fake reviews.
Fake review groups on Facebook are set up to recruit individuals willing to post incentivised and misleading reviews on products on Amazon's stores, as well as on other platforms, by connecting them with agents who are working for Amazon sellers. Some offer free items in return for five star reviews, while others may offer a voucher.
Which? first uncovered the in 2018. In the four years since, our investigations have repeatedly exposed further groups with hundreds of thousands of members in total, funneling misleading reviews on to tens of thousands of products on Amazon.
One of the groups identified in Amazon's lawsuit had more than 43,000 members and revealed that the groups administrators tried to avoid detection by banning prohibited words such as 'review' or 'refund'. This is a tactic Which? found in 2020 when it uncovered evidence that .
Since 2020, Amazon has reported more than 10,000 fake review groups to Meta. Of these, Meta has taken down more than half of the groups for policy violations and continues to investigate others. It says that this lawsuit 'goes a step further to uncover perpetrators operating on social media' and that 'proactive legal action targeting bad actors is one of many ways we protect customers by holding bad actors accountable'.
Litigation against the administrators of Facebook groups is the latest in a series of actions by Amazon to combat the source of fake reviews.
Amazon strictly prohibits fake reviews and has more than 12,000 employees around the world dedicated to protecting its stores from fraud and abuse, including fake reviews. A dedicated team investigates fake review schemes on social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, and regularly reports the abusive groups to those companies.
It called the issue of fake review trading an industry-wide problem, and said that there is a need for greater collaboration between the affected companies, social media sites and law enforcement.
Following action from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), on its site in January 2020. But in 2021 the CMA had to put pressure on the social media giant after finding more evidence of misleading content on the platform.
Facebook pledged a series of actions including suspending or banning users who repeatedly create groups that promote or encourage fake reviews, and putting in place dedicated processes to tackle the issue and stop groups from reappearing.
Which? believes that far more must be done to tackle the sources of fake reviews.
Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:
'It is positive that Amazon has taken legal action against some of the fake review brokers operating on Facebook, a problem Which?'s investigations have repeatedly exposed. However, it raises big question marks about the proactive action Facebook is taking to crack down on fake review agents and protect consumers.
'"Facebook needs to explain why this activity appears to be rife, and the Competition and Markets Authority must challenge the company to provide evidence to show that the action it is taking is effective. Otherwise, it should consider stronger action against the platform.
'The government has announced that it plans to give the CMA stronger powers to protect consumers from an avalanche of fake reviews. These digital markets, competition and consumer reforms must be made into law as a priority.'