Recently, more and more social platforms such as Urbanspoon and Yelp are based on public reviews, which may provide benefits to those businesses for example restaurants. However, these benefits increasingly generate new sorts of “fraud” by publishing untruth reviews. In general, some of them are the owner or relatives who posting positive feedbacks, also there are some cases that pre-employees or competitors are trying to mislead customers with those negative opinions. As far as to go, there are some businesses are keen to pay existing users of the platform to write a good script for them. As the result, many people don’t trust these websites as they are not reliable.
So, how to regulate these misbehaviour and keeps the data clean and tidy?
Yelp, for example, previously introduced a sting operation to catch those businesses who were trying to manipulate their reviews in October 2012. And they did catch 8 companies. Over the next three months, they tried to using “consumer alert” within these fault businesses’ Yelp profile page (said “We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business.”) to get a more intensive regulation result. But, as there is high volume of fake reviews, the first eight businesses may just be treated as “a sample”, according to Mr Singley of Yelp.
And will this sting work?
Well, it is believed that, the public shaming could increase the risk and the cost of fake reviews, therefore the prevalence will be deducted (Myle Ott, a doctoral candidate in computer science at Cornell). Based on these, public notices like what Yelp did may expose those companies and let others retrain themselves. However, limitations generate from high volume of data which make it more difficult and slow to censor.
Urbanspoon, however, did an opposite way of “manipulate” customers’ comments by deleting those negative disclosures and blocking users account without notification but keeping fake positive feedbacks from the owners. Even though Urbanspoon claimed that its operational policies prevent fraudulent reviews, and it has invested time building proprietary technology that identifies system fraud and gaming. Many people are still not convinced. This leads more and more customers think Urbanspoon is untrustworthy which potentially make the site lose their forces in the market. ACCC starts to investigate whether these sites need to be regulated by legislation to protect customers and offer them more reliable reviews.
Discussions of improvement list some possibilities. They could be possible by letting all reviews be tracking available, or each user who starting a new review has to provide a receipt as evidence. However, this still leaves some grey areas in the reviewing sites and such companies have to focus more on moderation.
Thank you for reading.