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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

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Is Fiverr Aiding And Abetting The Unauthorized Practice Of Law? | Associate's Mind October 17, 2015 um 9:17 am

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Tim Wilhoit October 17, 2015 um 12:03 pm

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."

Nate Hoffelder October 17, 2015 um 12:23 pm

Thanks. There was also a verb missing from the following sentence.

Greg Strandberg October 17, 2015 um 1:36 pm

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.

Chris Meadows, Editor of Teleread October 17, 2015 um 2:17 pm

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.

puzzled October 17, 2015 um 7:34 pm

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.

Nate Hoffelder October 17, 2015 um 8:00 pm

@ puzzled You don’t need to claim that someone violated a law to sue them. You can sue over breaking a contract, which is what Amazon is doing.

Fbone October 17, 2015 um 7:56 pm

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

Nate Hoffelder October 17, 2015 um 8:02 pm

@ Fbone I don’t know; that gets into the area of int’l treaties.

Anthony October 17, 2015 um 9:48 pm

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.

Nate Hoffelder October 17, 2015 um 11:01 pm

@ Anthony

Craigslist is probably next on Amazon’s hitlist, yes. In fact I bet Amazon is already investigating sellers on that site.

puzzled October 18, 2015 um 7:44 am

@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?

Nate Hoffelder October 18, 2015 um 8:49 am

@ 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.

carmen webster buxton October 18, 2015 um 4:21 pm

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

Derek Haines October 18, 2015 um 8:00 pm

(adsbygoogle=window.adsbygoogle||[]).push({});Paid Amazon book reviews never went away.Despite Amazon’s book review clean out three years ago, after the revelations by John Locke about paying for book reviews, nothing has changed at all. Well, apart from the fact that a lot of honest reviews were deleted by Amazon during their review cull at the time.Amazon did not take much more than token action against paid book reviews back then, but instead decided to remove reviews posted by fellow authors, or by those deemed to have a personal (even if only by social media) connection with the author. Because of this, a lot of genuine, honest and unpaid for reviews were deleted. But what about the dishonest paid Amazon book reviews? Hardly any were removed.But now we hear that Amazon are going after Fiverr. What? After three years of knowing very well that Fiverr is, was and has been the ‘go to‘ site for authors wanting paid Amazon book reviews? It’s hardly been a state secret. I just did a quick search of Fiverr and returned hundreds of offers of paid Amazon book reviews.The Guardian reports that Amazon are to sue 1,000 fake reviewers. However, I am not really sure what the difference is between a fake and a paid review. One thing is certain though. Paid Amazon book reviews are rife, and Amazon have ignored this issue for a very long time.Paid Amazon book reviews are big business.While it is commendable that Amazon are taking action against Fiverr reviewers, it is in fact only the tip of the iceberg. Even if Fiverr reviews are closed down tomorrow, a quick search of Twitter will find hundreds of offers to post paid Amazon book reviews. I asked one review site on Twitter for their price. For a verified Amazon Review – $30. Verified meaning that the reviewer will buy the ebook and therefore be able to post a verified Amazon book review.This is where Amazon have a real problem though. Fiverr reviews will probably be easy for Amazon to reduce because for $5 these are not reviews involving a verified purchase. But pay a little more, even on Fiverr, and a verified purchaser has every right to post a review.It’s not only Amazon who have a problem with fake and paid reviews. TripAdvisor fell foul last year and were fined $600,000 for allowing fake reviews to be posted on their site.In fact, almost every site on the Internet that allows reviews is full of fake and paid reviews.(adsbygoogle=window.adsbygoogle||[]).push({});So as much as everyone says that paid Amazon book reviews are a curse, the fact of the matter is that they are a reality and no matter what action Amazon takes, they will continue. Every author knows that to sell books, you need reviews, and to get reviews, you need to sell books. That’s the catch 22 that is resolved by paying for book reviews, and why it was so successful for John Locke, and why the practice continues today, on a commercial scale. Paid book reviews are big business.As one reviewer told be in a message, “people think there is taboo regarding paid book reviews, despite the practice being utilised by some big name authors on a regular basis.”While authors need reviews to sell books, don’t forget that Amazon don’t do badly out of it either. Reviews are one of the prime movers for sales of all Amazon products, so don’t expect the Amazon world to change too much. Sure, Amazon will give Fiverr a hard time, for a while, but at the end of the day, Amazon need reviews just as much as the product suppliers do.So it will be as it always has been, again. Money makes money, and those willing to invest will reap the rewards for paying for advertising, even in the form of Amazon reviews. Whatever you want to call it, fair, fake or foul, it’s all paid advertising, isn’t it?share this article …(adsbygoogle=window.adsbygoogle||[]).push({}); Tagged on: amazon book reviews    fake book reviews    fiverr    paid book reviews

carmen webster buxton October 18, 2015 um 9:14 pm

Also, Nate, did you happen to see this related story?

Nate Hoffelder October 18, 2015 um 10:03 pm

Yes. It’s not actually news, so I hardly paid attention to it. I linked to the Passive Voice discussion, though.

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