Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 54.198.183.217

Forum Moderators: rogerd

Message Too Old, No Replies

Reputation Management Gone Bad: Company Fined For Faked Reviews

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

Administrator from GB 

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month

joined:May 9, 2000
posts:23150
votes: 344


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.

12:18 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Dec 20, 2004
posts:2377
votes: 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... ;-)

12:19 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from MY 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Apr 1, 2003
posts:4847
votes: 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.
12:48 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Full Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Oct 26, 2004
posts: 319
votes: 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) ...

1:04 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Dec 20, 2004
posts:2377
votes: 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.

1:22 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:May 16, 2003
posts:992
votes: 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.
2:02 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Full Member

5+ Year Member

joined:Jan 17, 2007
posts:306
votes: 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.

2:19 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator goodroi is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 21, 2004
posts:3114
votes: 98


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 ;)

2:48 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 9, 2004
posts:643
votes: 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.

3:35 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

joined:Jan 26, 2004
posts:143
votes: 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?
3:38 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Dec 20, 2004
posts:2377
votes: 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.
3:48 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Nov 11, 2004
posts:84
votes: 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.

3:56 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

joined:Jan 26, 2004
posts:143
votes: 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.
3:57 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Administrator

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Aug 2, 2000
posts:9686
votes: 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.

4:55 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 25, 2005
posts:3513
votes: 11


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.

5:27 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Jan 30, 2001
posts:1739
votes: 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.

5:54 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Full Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Apr 12, 2006
posts:290
votes: 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.

6:02 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 18, 2003
posts:629
votes: 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.
6:14 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 12, 2006
posts:2558
votes: 44


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.

6:15 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

joined:May 6, 2008
posts:2011
votes: 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.
7:00 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Moderator

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 20, 2000
posts:4470
votes: 1


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.
7:02 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Oct 8, 2003
posts: 1419
votes: 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

10:39 pm on July 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Administrator

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Aug 2, 2000
posts:9686
votes: 0


>>you'll have to be logged into Facebook

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

3:40 am on July 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Full Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Mar 23, 2005
posts:331
votes: 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.

11:51 pm on July 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Full Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Aug 17, 2004
posts:217
votes: 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.

1:11 pm on July 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:July 29, 2007
posts:1745
votes: 80


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.

9:35 pm on July 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator travelin_cat is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 28, 2004
posts: 3165
votes: 5


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.

7:51 pm on July 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Aug 15, 2003
posts:421
votes: 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.

8:50 am on July 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Nov 15, 2005
posts:744
votes: 0


wow..does this mean all those millionnaires' sales letters with men standing with their Porsche and beach house can also be brought down?
11:34 pm on July 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Moderator

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 20, 2000
posts:4470
votes: 1


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