Amazon’s customer reviews are a core part of why customers love shopping in our stores. Ever since Amazon introduced customer reviews in 1995, we have continued to innovate upon review features that help shoppers easily see and share positive and negative customer feedback that is relevant, helpful, and trustworthy. Last year, 125 million customers contributed nearly 1.5 billion reviews and ratings to our stores, providing future Amazon shoppers with transparent insights into the products they were considering.
Our goal is to ensure that every review in Amazon’s stores is trustworthy and reflects customers’ actual experiences. For that reason, Amazon welcomes authentic reviews—whether positive or negative —but strictly prohibits fake reviews that intentionally mislead customers by providing information that is not impartial, authentic, or intended for that product or service. We invest significant resources to proactively stop fake reviews: This includes machine learning models that analyze thousands of data points to detect risk, including relations to other accounts, sign-in activity, review history, and other indications of unusual behavior and expert investigators that use sophisticated fraud-detection tools to analyze and prevent fake reviews from ever appearing in our store. As a result of continued investments, Amazon proactively blocked over 200 million suspected fake reviews from our stores in 2022. We will continue to build sophisticated tools that protect customers, our selling partners, and our store from bad actors that attempt to profit by proliferating fake reviews globally.
In recent years, these fake reviews are primarily being driven by the emergence of an illicit “fake review broker” industry. As our countermeasures have become more effective, the tactics of fake review brokers have also evolved in an attempt to try to evade detection. These brokers approach consumers directly through websites, social media channels, and encrypted messaging services, soliciting them to write fake reviews in exchange for money, free products, or other incentives. They at times portray themselves as legitimate businesses, with networks of hundreds of employees stationed worldwide to support their fraudulent schemes. As this misconduct is often orchestrated outside of Amazon’s store, it can be more challenging to detect, prevent, and enforce these bad actors if we are acting alone.
We are aggressively fighting review brokers. We will continue to take legal action to permanently shut down the fraudsters responsible for facilitating such reviews. Last year, Amazon took legal action against over 90 bad actors around the world who facilitated fake reviews, and we sued more than 10,000 Facebook group administrators that attempted to put fake reviews in our stores in exchange for money or free products. As of the end of May 2023, we have already surpassed that number, taking legal action against 94 bad actors, including fraudsters in the US, China, and Europe. In June, we added Nice Discount, Nice Rebate, and 100 Rabatt, which operate across the US, UK, and Germany, respectively. Within Europe, we are also working with leading consumer protection organizations to identify and sue the worst offenders. Our legal actions globally are starting to drive results as we have shut down some of the largest global brokers, including Matronex and Climbazon. By taking such action, Amazon targets the source of the problem.
Amazon will continue to hold bad actors accountable to protect our customers and selling partners. However, these high-volume fake review brokers are a global problem, impacting customer reviews across multiple industry sectors. The private sector, consumer groups, and governments need to work together to stop these fake review brokers and send a clear message that this illicit activity must stop.
Based on what we have learned from our proactive efforts, partnership with others, and enforcement actions, we support greater collaboration across the private and public sector to pursue the following steps and stop fake reviews:
1. Greater information sharing about known bad actors: Fake review brokers are a global issue affecting different industries, and we welcome opportunities to share information about these known bad actors with consumer groups and industry partners around the world. Through cross-industry sharing—including information on bad actors’ tactics and techniques, who they are targeting, the services they provide, and how they operate—we can more effectively shut down these schemes, thereby protecting more consumers across different industries.
2. Clearer enforcement authority and greater funding to hold bad actors accountable: These fraudsters need to be held accountable for the harms that they perpetrate on consumers, small businesses, and companies like Amazon – and while Amazon and others can do a great deal to aid in the process, the fact is that this requires government bodies that have the appropriate enforcement authority and funding to pursue these fake review brokers. The specific situation varies by country. In some countries, governments should establish enforcement authority or stronger enforcement tools to penalize fake review brokers. In countries that already have legislation or regulations against soliciting fake reviews, we believe regulators should be doing more to use their existing enforcement authority to take action against fake review brokers. We also support greater funding for law enforcement to build further technical expertise to investigate and take down these brokers.
3. Better controls for services that facilitate fake review solicitation: Fake review brokers use third-party services like social media and encrypted third-party messaging services to facilitate their illicit schemes. Amazon investigates and regularly reports abusive groups, deceptive influencers, and other bad actors to these third parties. In 2022, Amazon reported more than 23,000 abusive social media groups, with over 46 million members and followers, that facilitated fake reviews on social media sites. While our efforts with third-party services have resulted in better and faster responses to our takedown requests from some services providers, all sites that could be used to facilitate this illicit activity should have robust notice and takedown processes that are effective and fast. In order to truly disrupt fake review networks and address the problem at scale, we want to work with these companies to help improve their detection methods and ensure they have better controls to detect these networks and shut them down proactively. We also believe that together, we can do more to educate customers about fake review solicitation and to ensure robust enforcement policies for fake review brokers.
We are committed to ensuring our reviews remain a trustworthy, insightful resource for customers. Amazon will continue to protect our stores from fake reviews by investing in proactive tools to detect and stop fake reviews from impacting a customer’s buying decision. We will also continue taking legal action against fake review brokers. However, we cannot win this fight alone. Only through partnerships with like-minded stakeholders across the private and public sector can we truly stop fake review brokers, address the problem at the source, and help ensure that reviews are trustworthy across the industry.