Would Amazon and Google benefit from publishing fake consumer reviews?
It doesn’t sound right, but new research says that sites that collect consumer reviews on businesses and products should leave fake ones untouched.
Results from a study — “A Tangled Web: Should Online Review Portals Display Fraudulent Reviews?” — from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Washington published in the Information Systems Research journal show that 85 percent of consumers would like a choice in deciding if they want to incorporate fake review information into their decision-making when it comes to businesses and products.
“We find consumers have more trust in the information provided by review portals that display fraudulent reviews alongside nonfraudulent reviews, as opposed to the common practice of censoring suspected fraudulent reviews,” said Beibei Li, Anna Loomis McCandless chair and associate professor of IT and management at Carnegie Mellon. “The impact of fraudulent reviews on consumers’ decision-making process increases with the uncertainty in the initial evaluation of product quality.”
The research points to the critical role that reviews play in purchasing decisions, with 97 percent of consumers consulting reviews at some point when deciding what and when to buy. The growing role of reviews has brought with it an increase in fake ones. Prof. Li cites industry and media reports that show fraudulent reviews make up between 15 and 30 percent of all those posted.
The study points to the different approaches that various platforms have taken to address fake reviews. Google deletes them, Amazon.com censors them and Yelp publishes them with a notation that they may be faked.
Using “large-scale” Yelp data, 80 percent of respondents in the survey said they trust platforms that leave and call out potential fakes because they believe the practice makes businesses less likely to try and rig the system. Fake reviewers are, in essence, called out for cheating for all to see on the review page.
- New Research Says Displaying Fake Reviews Increases Consumer Trust in Review Platforms by 80% – INFORMS/Information Systems Research
- A Tangled Web: Should Online Review Portals Display Fraudulent Reviews? – Information Systems Research
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How significant a role do you think business and product reviews play in purchasing decisions? Do you agree that online platforms such as Amazon and Google would benefit more by publishing and calling out fake reviews rather than censoring them?