Amazon Astroturf And The Legal System

Astroturf and Spam Infographic.jpg

In a previous post I offered empirical evidence as to how astroturfing and spam are used within Amazon and Amazon reviews in other words the majority of  product reviews were non organic and they were astroturf spam

This problem is so large in scope that Amazon has now had to take legal action as well as implement technological solutions in an attempt to stop ( or at least minimize)  astroturf spam all together

So now lets first have a look at the legal aspects of Amazon’s efforts

Amazon has filed suit against four websites that allegedly sell phony product reviews that are placed on its main site, Amazon.com, marking the first time the company has taken legal action against such practices.

The Seattle-based online retailer filed the suit Wednesday in a Washington state court against a California man, Jay Gentile, who allegedly runs BuyAzonReviews.com, as well as several unknown parties running three other sites: BuyAmazonReviews.com, BayReviews.net and BuyReviewsNow.com.

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ascertain that a crucial and extremely critical component of Amazon’s business model are customer reviews in fact the company has had written reviews and 5-star rating system providing buyers and sellers with a helpful form of accountability and sign of popularity and quality of products since it opened 20 years ago.

But, like with any rating system, people try to work around it. Amazon says it has invested heavily with automated and manual controls to monitor the hundreds of millions of reviews on its site to maintain their authenticity and prevent reviews that may deceive customers.

Before we continue with this story,lets recap here are the definitions on the various types of spam and how they work

  • 1 ) Organic Spam this is basically a rather innocuous  form of spam and happens when robots crawl the net and gather information. You might see some of this happening when one types “cookie” in the search engine and results for double chocolate chip dough comes up
  • 2) E-mail spam which is the most common and known
  • 3) “piggybacking” which is intended not to sell a product but improve search engine ranking
  • 4)Citation spamming . This is the illegitimate or improper use of citations, footnotes or references. Citation spamming is a form of search engine optimization or promotion that typically involves the repeated insertion of a particular citation or reference in multiple articles by a single contributor. Often these are added not to verify article content but rather to populate numerous articles with a particular citation. Variations of citation spamming include the removal of multiple valid sources and statements in an article in favor of a single, typically questionable or low-value, web source. Citation spamming is a subtle form of spam and should not be confused with legitimate good-faith additions intended to verify article content.

 

Having just recapped our definitions let’s get back to the story as they say

The Amazon suit claims that BuyAzonReviews.com didn’t even require a company to ship its products to its reviewers, suggesting those buying its services simply ship empty boxes or envelopes for tracking purposes. These reviewers would still post “glowing five-star reviews … on products they never received,” the suit claims. The other three sites, Amazon said, offer similar reviews for sale. On BuyReviewsNow.com, the price for written reviews starts at $80 and goes up to $600, depending on how many reviews a company wanted.

Amazon is claiming the sites violated its trademarks for misleading use of its logo and name, fair competition laws, anti-cybersquatting laws and other laws. It requests the sites cease and desist activities related to Amazon, provide information on each fake review created and the accounts of the people who paid for them, as well as financial damages.

In an interview with with The Seattle Times the owner of BuyAmazonReviews.com is quoted as saying:

“We are not selling fake reviews. however we do provide Unbiased and Honest reviews on all the products … and this is not illegal at all.”

Going back to our definitions above, I have to ask could this company be so in denial? or could it be that they have been caught red handed and with their hand in the cookie jar ( in a matter of speaking )

Only time will tell and the answers to our questions and possible solutions and reforms to thee online marketplace will come out in court.

This brings us to another issue at hand that in my opinion is a contributor to the current ubiquitous astroturf and spam epidemic and that has to do with third party sellers and Amazon

Another component to Amazon’s business model is that it allows for third party sellers as it allows smaller businesses access to millions of shoppers and this is a double edged sword as third party sellers now sell 44% of all items on Amazon worldwide and their sales are growing faster than those of the host site.

As you can see the incentive and motivation for competitive online “advertising” ie astroturf and spam is incredibly large so large that aside lawsuits Amazon is now using AI to fight astroturfing by putting greater emphasis on verified and helpful reviews

So large in fact is the scope of Amazon’s activities and motives with or without spam and astroturfing that I will be writing & publishing two subsequent articles in order to go into further detail as like I stated above the scope is so huge.

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