Amazon placed the blame for the spread of fake reviews on its site on social media companies, saying they allow bad actors to buy and sell fake product reviews, making it more difficult for the internet retail giant to tackle the issue.
"Some use social media services on their own; in other cases, they hire a third-party service provider to perpetrate this activity on their behalf," Amazon wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "However, bad actors regularly try to take this transaction outside Amazon to obscure our ability to detect their activity and the relationship between the multiple accounts committing or benefiting from this abuse."
Customer reviews have been a critical part of Amazon's business for more than 20 years, with the written reviews and five-star rating system providing buyers and sellers with a helpful form of accountability and sign of popularity and quality of products. But Amazon found that paid reviews artificially inflated product rankings and misled customers, leading the retailer to ban them from the site in 2016.
Amazon went on to say social media companies could do more to rein in the problem. It says it regularly reports instances of fraud to social media sites and that some have improved their response times. But it wants social media companies to be more proactive on the issue -- identifying and deleting fraudulent reviews without having to be informed first by Amazon.
In the first three quarters of 2020, Amazon said, it identified more than 300 groups suspected of fraudulent behavior to social media companies, which "took a median time of 45 days" to cut off the groups' access to the service. During the first three months of 2021, Amazon reported over 1,000 groups to social media services, which took a median time of five days to shut down the groups.
"While we appreciate that some social media companies have become much faster at responding, to address this problem at scale, it is imperative for social media companies to invest adequately in proactive controls to detect and enforce fake reviews ahead of our reporting the issue to them," Amazon said in its blog post, which was published just days before its annual Prime Day sales event.
Amazon didn't identify any social media companies by name, but a 2018 investigation by The Washington Post found that many fake reviews originated on Facebook, where sellers enlist shoppers on dozens of networks to write glowing product reviews in exchange for money or other compensation.
Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.