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US: New York Attorney General's Operation "Clean Turf" Fines Companies For Writing False Online Reviews

2:51 pm on Sep 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The authorities fight back over false reviews!

This is only the tip of the iceberg, of course, as there are many, many more that will be tougher to reach.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that 19 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. "Operation Clean Turf," a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General's office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.US Attorney General's Operation "Clean Turf" Fines Companies For Writing False Reviews [ag.ny.gov]
6:16 pm on Sept 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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This is both good and bad, but for very different reasons. I suspect the authorities will go down the power-grab route but we won't see any better system for verifying (mostly anonymous/pseudonym) reviews. Greed causing more problems that legislation does not solve.
1:04 pm on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Pretty common tactic really. I've heard it referred to as "priming the pump." Similar things happen on other sites as well that aren't "reviews." Not that I've personally done it or condoned the action, just saying I've seen it done.
1:40 pm on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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These sites marketed their services as reputation management. From here onward, for me, reputation management is going to be a euphemism for spammer.
7:51 pm on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Astroturfing is nothing new. It is the ultimate work at home job for people in third world nations to get paid $1 to $10 per review.

Either they give a good review to the Astroturfing company's products, or they give bad reviews on their competitor's products.

Before you can trust any review on the Internet you must look to see if they are all 5 star or 1 star reviews, if there are no 2, 3, or 4 star reviews chances are the reviews are a subject of astroturfing.

In baseball and other sports they used to play on dirt and grass. But it took a lot to maintain that grass. So when plastics got invented they made plastic grass called astroturf that was used in place of dirt and grass for sports teams to play on to save money. Paying people to do fake reviews is called astroturfing, because it is not 'grass roots' promotions or reviews, but fake ones.

Many a magazine and newspaper back in the day used to make fake reviews for products that the company who made the product or service paid them to give them a good review. When the world wide web came about, many Websites gave astroturfed reviews and companies like Microsoft, IBM, Apple, etc paid writers to always given them good reviews. Even giving the writers and editors free products in exchange for good reviews. InfoWorld used to do this a lot, and I was one of many who called them on it. IBM paid them to promote OS/2 so of course when users went to vote on their favorite OS, OS/2 won. Most of the votes came from bluethunder.org which was an OS/2 fan site and had stuffed the ballots as well as written a lot of fake review feedbacks on how good OS/2 was, because IBM paid them to do it. They had created a lot of fake accounts in order to vote and leave feedback and reviews. This lead to the Infoworld Forums being taken down, and then conversion to their blogs instead.

Anyway this sort of stuff is really Black Hat SEO stuff.

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