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Reputation Management Gone Bad: Company Fined For Faked Reviews
engine




msg:3952890
 11:42 am on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Reputation Management Gone Bad: Company Fined For Faked Reviews [nytimes.com]
Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company, has reached a settlement with the State of New York over its attempts to fake positive consumer reviews on the Web, the New York attorney generalís office said Tuesday.

The company had ordered employees to pretend they were satisfied customers and write glowing reviews of its face-lift procedure on Web sites, according to the attorney generalís statement. Lifestyle Lift also created its own sites of face-lift reviews to appear as an independent sources.

One e-mail message, discovered by the attorney generalís office, told employees to ďdevote the day to doing more postings on the Web as a satisfied client.Ē

The company will pay $300,000 in penalties and costs to the state. It has also agreed to stop publishing anonymous reviews on Web sites in the voices of satisfied customers and to identify any content created by employees, the statement said.


 

maximillianos




msg:3952903
 12:18 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Wow this is great news. One of my sites is a review site, and we battle fake reviews (both positive AND negative) constantly. They are becoming much more savvy these days.

We implemented some new tactics to help cut down on the spam. They typically give up and head to another site... Unfortunately we don't share our tactics... We like to keep the spammers guessing... ;-)

vincevincevince




msg:3952904
 12:19 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

What the article does not state is how it was discovered. I think the overall message here is that reputation management needs to be an at-arms-length transaction with an unconnected third party rather than an in-house campaign.

tigertom




msg:3952918
 12:48 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think you can spot fake reviews fairly easily; the content and usernames will be different from normal ones.

If reviews are your business and you're looking at them all day, you'll spot junk fairly quickly, the same way webmasters spot fake blog comments.

Normal reviews contain a mix of positive and negative comments. If you're getting rave after rave ...

Also, if similar reviews are coming from the same range of IP addresses (or the same one) ...

maximillianos




msg:3952926
 1:04 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think you can spot fake reviews fairly easily

Agreed. And to add to that, our long-time users also seem to have quite a knack for pegging spam. We give our community the ability to flag spam which has helped us tremendously.

Rosalind




msg:3952930
 1:22 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think you can spot fake reviews fairly easily;

Badly done ones, certainly. The majority of fakes seem to fall into that category, but a small number of fake review writers are smarter than your average. Weeding them out is always going to be a challenge.

sgietz




msg:3952957
 2:02 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Amazon is plagued by this. I tend to take reviews with a grain of salt, but I do read them and sometimes change my intentions based on them.

Nasty reviews by a disgruntled customer, or competitor can really have a negative effect on your business. I think Apartment Reviews is a prime example of this. I used to live at a fairly nice apartment complex. Their rating was extremely low thanks to a fellow tenant, who couldn't stand the property manager. She posted dozens of bad reviews and single-handedly caused the rating to dip below 10. Conversely, there were glowing reviews that were clearly posted by the employees.

If a company's reputation wasn't at stake (positive or negative), I would write this off as a form of blogging, but damage can be done to either the business, or the consumer.

goodroi




msg:3952969
 2:19 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

talk about rookie mistakes. you never have the entire company know that you are publishing false reviews. and you definitely never email or write down what you are doing. do you think the mafia leaves a paper trail? otherwise the first angry employee will blow the whistle on you. just have a few people focus on it.

doesn't everyone know how to properly spread false information ;)

JerryOdom




msg:3952994
 2:48 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Fake reviews always read like subtle infomercials. Reviews in general are problematic in that a large majority of people usually only like to write when they're mad.

I don't know if I'm in favor or against government going after people writing reviews fake or not. On one hand it would be nice to see people held accountable for libel or false advertisement. On the other hand it makes me want to go back and review every opinionated article I have.

fargo1999




msg:3953029
 3:35 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's a bad decision against the freedom of speech and the Internet. They could shut thousands of websites that post "Customer Testimonials" just because the company doesn't have a hard proof that the particular testimonial was made by a real client?

maximillianos




msg:3953031
 3:38 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think I'm going to post a link to this article for folks to see before they post a review in my site. It might scare some into thinking twice.

Lts95




msg:3953038
 3:48 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's a bad decision against the freedom of speech and the Internet.

Is it? I would have to think that the fact that these false reviews were for surgery played a part in the decision to persue it. I doubt reviews of blue widgets receive similar scrutiny.

fargo1999




msg:3953039
 3:56 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think it's a perfect excuse to go after any website to get more money to the state/government. If we support such approach then it will lead to self-censoring of the Internet.

rogerd




msg:3953040
 3:57 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

>>They could shut thousands of websites

Actually, it was the company posting the false reviews that got fined.

This is fantastic news for sites that rely on user-generated reviews and other content. I think many businesses treat this sort of thing in a very cavalier way - knowing they could get fined out of business should put the brakes on phony posting plans.

In addition, if I were a reputation management service company or buzz marketing firm, I'd be wary of implying any kind of false posting service. All it would take is one disgruntled client or even a sales prospect that declined to do business to blow the whistle.

bwnbwn




msg:3953072
 4:55 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Telling all the employees to lie for the company was like telling all your employees to click on the Google ads on the site just plain dumb.

An old saying "You Reap What You Sow" fits this.

hutcheson




msg:3953101
 5:27 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

>I think the overall message here is that reputation management needs to be an at-arms-length transaction with an unconnected third party rather than an in-house campaign.

Yes, absolutely, and bank robbers need to wear masks.

>It's a bad decision against the freedom of speech and the Internet.

Yes, absolutely, and locked bank vaults are an unconscionable limitation on my right to pursue happiness.

Silvery




msg:3953140
 5:54 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

There are viable, valid ways to encourage your customers to provide you with positive reviews (without bribing!) - it's terribly shortsighted to try to manipulate consumers through fraudulent representations like this.

Most small-to-medium businesses which I work with have few-to-no reviews in various online business directories. Simply asking your happiest customers to rate you in Yelp, Superpages, Yahoo, and Google Maps can result in a pretty rapid expansion of good reviews. And, there are other means.

Very interesting that such behavior can result in such substantial penalties! Most people seem to figure that what they do on the internet "doesn't count" so much.

BradleyT




msg:3953143
 6:02 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

It was probably worth it for them. The fake reviews probably brought them extra business and now that they're in the news they'll be getting links to their site.

londrum




msg:3953154
 6:14 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

reviews tend to be skewed anyway because most people will only bother saying something if they want to have a moan.
if you bought a product and it worked okay, then what's the problem? but if it broke and they complained and they didn't do anything to help then they'll be straight on the net with their fingers alight and writing god-knows-what.

it's a bit like this forum. the majority of stuff in the adsense forum is about things that google's broken or failed to fix, and all the good stuff gets drowned out.

StoutFiles




msg:3953155
 6:15 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I had never heard of "Lifestyle Lift" until today. Negative press is still press...if their product is actually decent they can spin this attention in their favor.

skibum




msg:3953185
 7:00 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think it sets a dangerous precedent for restricting free speech online. Shouldn't it be up to the consumer to do some verification? I don't think it was ethical or right what they did but also don't think the govt should be stepping in. Maybe if this is a surgical procedure and a public health issue, that could tip the scales a little bit toward needing govt intervention. Keep going like this and you'll have to be logged into Facebook in order to post a comment or review anywhere.

AjiNIMC




msg:3953186
 7:02 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Movie reviews ... I generally ignore the first few god reviews as generally it comes from the movie makers...

Afterall all marketers are liars says Seth Godin

rogerd




msg:3953320
 10:39 pm on Jul 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

>>you'll have to be logged into Facebook

ID verification will probably have to occur to maintain review credibility.

rohitj




msg:3953485
 3:40 am on Jul 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

300k? That's a joke. The press alone from this incident -- if spun properly -- would probably help recuperate a ton of those costs.

The state of NY has far bigger fish to fry, if you will.

greenleaves




msg:3954032
 11:51 pm on Jul 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Amateurs.

And to those thinking they can spot well crafted fake reviews... I think that is only good for people who do good fake reviews.

JS_Harris




msg:3954341
 1:11 pm on Jul 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Amateurs indeed.

Keeping it all in house, using employees to write them, owning the sites the reviews are on... wow.

It wouldn't have been any more honest to pay for reviews on any of the dozen paid review services but at least it would have been harder to track back to the source.

Wait, the court ruling doesn't stop them from buying paid reviews, I bet we see those next.

travelin cat




msg:3954639
 9:35 pm on Jul 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

300k? That's a joke. The press alone from this incident -- if spun properly -- would probably help recuperate a ton of those costs.

In this case I disagree. The company involved is a cosmetic surgery business where reputation is everything. It's one thing if you sell widgets, it's something else entirely if you alter someones looks via a procedure.

I would think people would be concerned that they had to fake reviews. If you are good, you do not need to fake reviews, they happen naturally. If you are incompetent, maybe you need to fake them.

jhood




msg:3955052
 7:51 pm on Jul 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's a bad decision against the freedom of speech and the Internet.

Fraud is not protected by the First Amendment. It is illegal to knowingly publish, broadcast or post false information for commercial purposes. It's ludicrous that these "reputation management" firms think they can openly perpetrate fraud and get by with it.

The $300,000 fine may or may not be a slap on the wrist but paid liars -- which is what reputation mangement is turning into -- should consider that fraud can in many cases be prosecuted criminally. Ask Bernard Madoff.

anand84




msg:3956432
 8:50 am on Jul 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

wow..does this mean all those millionnaires' sales letters with men standing with their Porsche and beach house can also be brought down?

skibum




msg:3956907
 11:34 pm on Jul 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Fraud is not protected by the First Amendment.

Is this fraud (maybe it is?). If I go post fake glowing reviews about ski lessons I give or incentivize other people to do it, is that fraud?

paid liars -- which is what reputation mangement is turning into -- should consider that fraud can in many cases be prosecuted criminally.

That sounds like the definition of politicians and often PR agencies among other professions.

This 32 message thread spans 2 pages: 32 ( [1] 2 > >
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