Amazon Cracks Down on More Than 1,000 Alleged Fake Reviewers

More than 1,000 defendants who allegedly posted fake reviews targeted in suit.

ByABC News
October 19, 2015, 1:00 PM

— -- Amazon is cracking down on more than 1,000 anonymous defendants who allegedly accepted payment in exchange for giving positive but what Amazon is calling “false, misleading, and inauthentic” reviews of products on the site, according to a lawsuit filed by the online retail giant.

The lawsuit includes online advertisements that offer the services of writers who say they will leave a coveted five-star or “awesome” reviews on sellers’ Amazon products in exchange for just a few dollars. While anyone can review a product on Amazon, the retailer's rules prohibit paid-for or fictional reviews.

Amazon is targeting 1,114 defendants, currently named as "John Does," who allegedly advertised their fake review services on the freelance job marketplace Fiverr is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. In a statement to ABC News, a Fiverr representative said: "We actively remove services that violate our terms of use, and respond promptly to any reports of inappropriate content."

In a complaint filed Friday in King County Superior Court in Washington state, Amazon said the fake reviewers' actions were "unfair and deceptive" and said they tarnished the company's brand. The lawsuit is the latest in Amazon's crackdown against bogus reviews. The company sued a number of alleged fake review sites in April. Amazon said most of the review sites it has sued have been shut down.

Amazon has also been turning to technology to help weed out bogus reviews. In June, the company revealed it had deployed an artificial intelligence system to make sure customers see the most authentic reviews of a product.

Using machine learning -- a form of artificial intelligence -- Amazon's algorithm bumps up the reviews that are deemed to be the most true to customers' experiences, giving an extra weight to newer reviews and reviews that have been voted by customers as being helpful.

"Amazon is enhancing the customer reviews system, adding a few changes we hope will help make product feedback even more useful to customers," Julie Law, an Amazon spokeswoman, told ABC News in June. "The system will continue to learn which reviews are most helpful to customers and improve the experience over time."

An Amazon representative told ABC News today that "the vast majority of reviews on Amazon are authentic, helping millions of customers make informed buying decisions. And our goal is to make reviews as useful as possible for customers."

"We continue to use a number of mechanisms to detect and remove the small fraction of reviews that violate our guidelines," the representative said in an email statement. "We terminate accounts that abuse the system and we take legal action. We are currently taking legal action against a number of individuals including many that are referred to in the complaint filed Friday."

ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis contributed to this report.