New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, seeking an end to the days of “A+ great service friendly would use again!!,” has organized “the most comprehensive crackdown to date on deceptive reviews on the Internet,” according to the New York Times. The AG’s yearlong investigation will lead to a total of $350,000 in penalties for 19 shady New York-based companies.
For anyone who spends a decent amount of time online, fake reviews have a blend of enthusiasm and ambiguity that’s relatively easy to spot. Business is apparently booming–a quick search through Craigslist’s writing jobs listings in New York reveals a bevy of opportunities for literary-minded self-starters.
“What we’ve found is even worse than old-fashioned false advertising,” said Schneiderman. “When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving.”
The Times article also includes this gem illustrating the depths of the rabbit-hole:
In some cases, the reputation shops bribed their clients’ customers to write more fake reviews, giving them $50 gift certificates for their trouble. They also went on review sites that criticized their own fake-review operations and wrote fake reviews denying they wrote fake reviews.