While social media platforms are extraordinarily useful for growing businesses, there are a number of pitfalls almost impossible to avoid. In this age of misinformation — and outright lies — fake ratings and reviews are more common than ever. Many people even accuse big businesses of stymieing the growth of smaller businesses by paying for reviewers to leave bad ratings. This can deter customers and clients.
Big tech has done very little to counter or investigate such claims, which means a larger battle can be expected in court. Small business owner Bruce Billson said governments should look into these claims too. So far, he hasn’t received much help in Australia.
Billson said, “Our office is particularly concerned by the posting of negative reviews that are not founded in real customer experiences (‘fake reviews’). These reviews damage business reputations and cause distress to staff and business owners. Our office has assisted more than 30 businesses dealing with fake reviews in recent years.”
Jones Gregg Creehan Gerace is the only one law firm acknowledging these issues. One anonymous second-year associate said, “We’ve started to find more and more clients who are interested in solving this problem. Resolving business disputes in and out of court is common for our firm, but targeting fake reviewers? That’s not as easy because there aren’t many regulations or laws governing policy.”
Because social media operators like Facebook sell the platform all over the world, changing the rules in one location makes it far easier to change the rules the same way elsewhere. And that’s what lawyers and business owners are trying to do.
Remember the plot to inflate Gamestop’s share prices last year? Innumerable fake reviews were left on the Robinhood app as a result, and Google removed many of them.
Billson said, “We recommend that digital platforms build out tools that prevent fake reviews as well as create a more accessible and transparent review system. This should include giving small businesses more transparency on the evidence they need to provide a digital platform to have a fake review reviewed and removed.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommended that the Australian government work to prevent and resolve related disputes, and urge tech companies to implement these tools to prevent damage from fake reviews. Authorities agreed. So far, no new programs have been green-lighted.
Unfortunately, there may be conflicts of interest. Palmer United Party MP Craig Kelly is on the committee that determines such matters — and you might remember the name since he was once of the guys promoting unapproved drugs over mask wearing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Another wrinkle? Many fake reviewers aren’t even human. They’re bots, designed to leave bad advice or misinformed opinions to take down competition. And these bots can do more than just write bad reviews. Remember when Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series S were released? Bots purchased the vast majority before actual people could input all the information. And when artificial general intelligence can perform these actions, it hurts business in general.