Facebook, Google and Trustpilot failing to 'filter out fake reviews'

Which? says that Facebook, Google, and Trustpilot are failing to filter out fake reviews after carrying out an investigation.

The consumer organisation said that the three platforms can be “easily infiltrated” with fake reviews by brokers who sell them for as little as £4.

Which? investigated by setting up a fake business and approaching brokers to boost its pages across the three websites using fake five-start reviews, which it says revealed a “sprawling network” of fake reviewers on Facebook.

The investigation comes after the government outlined plans for new legislation which would give the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) stronger powers to protect consumers from fake reviews.

“Facebook, Google and Trustpilot are failing to do enough to shut out a fake reviews industry that has been thriving and profiting from misleading reviews for years now,” said Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy.

Concha alleged that Facebook in particular has been “slow to act” in tackling fake reviews and said it had shown a “complete disregard” for consumers who want to access genuine reviews.

During the investigation, Which? amassed 19 five-star reviews from fake profiles for its made-up business, with 11 going up in one day.

The organisation said that initially Facebook only removed 18 of the 29 fake reviewer profiles Which? shared with it.

The social media platform did eventually remove all of the profiles a month after the findings were first reported.

Which? used the same fake review broker to add reviews on Trustpilot. The broker told Which? that Trustpilot does not like people buying reviews for the platform, but that ‘millions of businesses still do’.

Which? managed to get 19 fake reviews on Google within a week. The organisation asked a review broker how safe it was to buy reviews for Google, and it said that in eight years none of its clients had experienced any issues.

“We’re investigating the accounts brought to our attention," said a Meta spokesperson. "We have dedicated extensive time and resources to tackling this issue and will continue to do so."

They added: "Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews. Our safety and security teams are continuously working to help prevent these practices."

Retail Systems has approached Google and Trustpilot for comment.

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