Managing Reputation: Perils of Fake Online Reviews and Tips to Getting Authentic Ones

Though good online reviews from reputable review sites (for example, Yelp, Google Reviews) can aid your internet reputation management efforts and improve your conversions, the practice of astroturfing or hiring professionals to write positive reviews for your website and/or negative reviews for your competitors is very disruptive. You may get sued for that and end up paying a huge amount of money as penalty. Recently, the tech giant Samsung was fined around $340,000 by Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) for employing a large number of hired writers and designated employees for their astroturf campaign which involved posting good reviews and comments about their own products and negative reviews for competitors products. Two local firms were also fined $100,000 for their contribution to the campaign.

According to the FTC, the local firms and Samsung employees cleaned the negative comments on Samsung products and highlighted the faults of competitor products without disclosing this was being done on Samsung’s behalf. Even though this campaign appeared to be mainly focused on knocking down Samsung’s mobile competitor HTC, other companies products also got affected.

In the U.S, the practice of astroturfing violates the Endorsement and Advertising Guidelines set down by the Federal Trade Commission. A year-long investigation into the reputation management industry entitled ‘Operation Clean Turf’ by the New York Attorney General’s office ended in September 2013 and found that 19 companies were involved in the manipulation of consumer-review websites and astroturfing. These companies flooded fake reviews on the Internet by posting bogus consumer reviews on prominent review sites including Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch. They used techniques to hide their identities during this campaign such as creating fake profiles for posting reviews and paying freelance writers from the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe $1 to $10 per review. By the time the undercover investigation was done, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman had doled out more than $350,000 in fines (ranging from $2500 to $100,000). All the companies agreed to stop the practice of writing fake reviews for their businesses and pay the fine.

Once the consumers find the reviews are not authentic, they won’t come back to your site or recommend your products to others. This will lower your online reputation. So, if you really want to build your brand reputation, avoid posting fake reviews. You should also m