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Facebook or ‘fake book’? Bogus review groups continue to infiltrate social media giant

Written by: Lynn Kabagenyi
New research reveals that Facebook is still being targeted by fake review groups, despite an upcoming Government bill which looks to make this activity illegal and subject to huge fines from the regulator.

Research from consumer champion Which?, carried out in March 2023, found fourteen groups on Facebook that exchanged positive reviews on Amazon, Google and Trustpilot for free products or payment. These groups shared more than 62,000 members between them.

One group, Amazon Reviewer, had more than 15,000 members and reassured its members that it was a genuine group testing Amazon products.

The consumer group also found around 17,000 members across groups trading in Google reviews. A search for ‘Google reviews’ revealed groups trading openly in lavish five-star reviews for businesses.

Which? noted that there appeared to be ‘glaring gaps’ in the action taken by Facebook to crack down on such activity. A search for ‘AMZ reviews’ now comes with a warning that the term is associated with fraudulent behaviour. But a search for ‘Amazon reviews’ – the term Which? used to find these groups – does not carry any warning at all.

Digital bill can’t come soon enough

When enacted into law, the Government’s Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill will target fake reviews. One of the ways in which the new bill will target fake review groups will be through active monitoring of social media sites for genuine trading only which is not influenced by free products for a positive review.

The consumer champion urged online platforms to follow the rules more closely when it comes to policing fake reviews, even before the new laws are introduced.

The organisation also said that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should regularly check for fake review activity and be ready to confront fake review groups when they fail to comply with the rules.

Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, Rocio Concha, said: “Despite previous interventions by the regulator, our latest findings suggest an industry dedicated to fake review trading continues to thrive on Facebook, leaving consumers exposed to misleading information on some of the world’s biggest review and shopping platforms.”

She also said that strong rules and tough penalties for online platforms that fail in their legal responsibilities is desperately needed to fight against fake reviews.

A spokesperson for (Meta) Facebook told Which?: “Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews. We’ve removed the groups shared with us for violating our policies. While no enforcement is perfect, we continue to invest in new technologies and methods to protect our users from this kind of content.”

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