Using fake reviews as an online reputation management tool is not uncommon, despite its dishonest nature. But now it seems that the crackdown against fake online reviews has begun, as a number of US companies have been reprimanded for this behaviour.
The Attorney General office of New York has reached a settlement with 19 American companies, including a mix of marketing firms and small businesses. All 19 companies have been ordered to stop writing and soliciting fake online reviews, while some of the businesses have been ordered to pay fines, ranging from $2500 to almost $100,000.
As part of an investigation code named Operation Clean Turf, the New York Attorney General’s office went undercover, posing as a yoghurt shop and contacting companies to ask for their help in fighting negative reviews online.
As the verdict announcement states, the investigation found that many of the companies they contacted were “using advanced IP spoofing techniques to hide their identities, as well as setting up hundreds of bogus online profiles on consumer review websites to post the reviews.”
Eric Schneiderman, the NY Attorney General, said in his announcement: “This investigation into large scale, intentional deceit across the internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution.
“And companies that continue to engage in these practices should take note; ‘Astroturfing’ is the 21st Century’s version of false advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it.”
What do you think of these settlements? Will they make businesses think twice about posting fake online reviews? Or do the rewards for this practice still outweigh the risks?