Amazon Files Suit Against a Thousand Fiverr Users for Selling Fake Reviews

245862412_60ec506314_oIn April of this year Amazon did something that it had never done before: it filed a lawsuit against four websites which had sold reviews to marketplace sellers on its site.

It was only the latest stage in Amazon's years-long efforts to fight fake reviews, and today they're going to court again. Geekwire reported on Friday that, following a months-long undercover investigation, Amazon has filed suit to unmask 1,114 anonymous Fiverr users who were selling their services as reviewers.

Fiverr is a marketplace where users can hire anonymous strangers to perform services which range from cover design, editing video, or crafting a business plan to the less palatable services like selling social media followers - or fake product reviews.

And yes, that includes Amazon reviews. There are around 680 people offering Amazon reviews on Fiverr at this time.  They're so easy to find that you merely have to search and then scroll through the many listings promising five-star reviews.

There are so many review-sellers that you could wear out your keyboard just listing all the names, but Amazon doesn't believe in half measures. Amazon didn't just note the names of the sellers, it hired them:

Amazon has conducted an extensive investigation of the defendants’ activities on Fiverr, including purchasing “reviews” for products and communicating directly with some of the defendants. 

Many of the reviewers ask that the review text be added along with the payment, and some even promise a "verified review" where they faked buying the product in order to give the review more weight. Both of these tricks are ones we've seen before, and Amazon's not happy.

"Defendants are misleading Amazon’s customers and tarnishing Amazon’s brand for their own profit and the profit of a handful of dishonest sellers and manufacturers. Amazon is bringing this action to protect its customers from this misconduct, by stopping defendants and uprooting the ecosystem in which they participate," Amazon wrote in the court filing. "Although Amazon has successfully requested removal of similar listings from Fiverr in the past, the removal of individual listings does not address the root cause of the issue or serve as a sufficient deterrent to the bad actors engaged in creating and purchasing fraudulent product reviews."

Amazon has been ratcheting up their fight against bogus reviews for several years, and in 2015 they got serious. In addition to that earlier lawsuit, in July Amazon radically changed their review policy to forbid any perceived relationship between reviewers and authors.

It might not look like it, but that policy change is the direct complement to this lawsuit.

That new policy is dependent on algorithms that track social media and other relationships, but the algorithms won't help catch reviewers who launder their services through sites like Fiverr. And that means that if Amazon had changed the policy but not filed suit against Fiverr users, more of the disreputable reviewers would simply have shifted their activities to Fiverr.

Of course, this is as much a game of whack-a-mole as it is anything, so Amazon is probably already looking for the next site where the review sellers might take up residence.

Where do you think that will be?

image by robotchanter

About Nate Hoffelder (11287 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

15 Comments on Amazon Files Suit Against a Thousand Fiverr Users for Selling Fake Reviews

  1. Interesting story, I’m glad to see Amazon is taking steps to eliminate some of the fraudulent reviews.

    I would compliment you further if you could change the “compliment” to “complement.”

  2. This will never make it to court. Fiverr as a company will pull those accounts, simple as that. They have a reputation to uphold and this news story has already damaged it. As a result, they’re now in corporate damage-control mode. We know how defensive large corporations are when they’re in that state.

    This will probably be wrapped up by early next week. I don’t think we’ll have a Fiverr category anymore for reviews in the writing services section.

    How much will this hurt the company’s bottom line? I doubt much, though you have to figure that every time someone buys a review on the site the company gets $0.50.

    I’ll let you speculate on the math and numbers involved in that, but I doubt it’s big. I’d be willing to bet Fiverr Createspace POD cover designer income dwarfs it big time.

    Maybe I’m just naive, but I’d been under the assumption that most of us know buying reviews is not effective. I suppose there’s a new self-published author uploaded every minute, however.

  3. Even if Fiverr terminates their accounts, that doesn’t mean they’re exempt from having to identify them. After all, the suit was against the reviewers themselves, not Fiverr. Fiverr will fight tooth and nail to avoid having to cough up their identities, as doing so would damage Fiverr’s ability to anonymize the identity of its users, but it’s unclear whether Fiverr can manage to pull that off. It should be interesting to find out.

  4. Have the fake reviewers actually broken any law? If not, then how can a court order Fiverr to release any information to Amazon? THe fact that these people have violated Amazon’s T&Cs is insufficient a reason.

  5. How can Amazon sue a company for information based in Israel?

  6. I’d assume Craigslist would be the next obvious target, judging from the number of “write reviews for Amazon” ads I keep finding in the “gigs” section.

  7. @Nate : Fiverr has a contract with Amazon? Why should a third party (fiverr) be forced to turn over their customer’s information to a company they don’t have a contract with?

    • @ puzzled

      Amazon isn’t suing Fiverr; it’s suing a thousand John Doe users. Fiverr’s only involvement will be when Amazon seeks a subpoena to force Fiverr to disclose the user’s names.

      As for why, it is both common practice to seek that info and to fight to keep it a secret.

  8. No clue on this one. But I am pretty sure lawyers will make lots of money out of it.

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  8. Buying Fake Book Reviews: Are you a respectable writer or a con-artist? - Terri K. Jones
  9. Amazon Files Suit Against Sellers of Fake Reviews | The Digital Reader

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