Fake reviews: when S*** is not a three-star mark for the letter S

A friend told me recently that her new book just got two really, really good reviews on Amazon – but those reviews were deleted shortly afterwards. She’s reached out to Amazon but the company won’t tell her anything: it will only discuss reviews with the people who wrote the reviews. And reportedly it ain’t going to say much to them either. If Amazon, or more likely, some automated Amazon algorithm thinks a review is a fake then it’s deleted. So even Amazon knows fake reviews are a problem.

They would. We’ve already become suspicous of online reviews – not just on Amazon but everywhere – such that if something has five stars then we’re raising eyebrows. Intellectually, we know if something has just one star then that’s probably suspicious too but still we tend to believe it. We should watch that.

But the best outcome is that we tend to believe – to correctly believe – only middle-rating reviews. Which means over time that reviews are pointless to us: if you only trust the three-star ratings ones then reviews are no use to you because everything has three star ones somewhere.

So it would be better for all of us if we could trust reviews. We would buy more or at least buy more readily – which means it would be better for Amazon if we could trust reviews. Consequently the company is taging action. It’s just not working.

Have a read of The Wirecutter’s take on what’s happening, what Amazon is trying to do and what you can do about it yourself.

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