Facebook and eBay have made commitments to do more to stop fake reviews being sold on their platforms after coming under pressure from a UK markets regulator — even as fresh examples of the problem have been found on Facebook-owned Instagram.
Last June the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned the two platform that they must do more to prevent the sale of fake reviews on their platforms, saying it had found “troubling evidence” of a “thriving marketplace for fake and misleading online reviews.”
The regulator estimates that more than three-quarters of UK shoppers are influenced by reviews when they shop online, with billions of pounds being spent every year based on write-ups of products or services — which in turn encourages an illegal trade in fake and misleading reviews.
A few months after the CMA’s warning UK consumer rights group Which? released the results of its own investigation of the problem — singling out Facebook for having failed to move the needle (while finding eBay had made progress).
Today the CMA says Facebook has removed a total of 188 groups and disabled 24 user accounts as a result of its investigation. While eBay has permanently banned 140 users after the intervention.
The regulator said both companies have now pledged to put measures in place to “better identify, investigate and respond to” the trade in fake reviews, and help prevent such content from appearing in the future — with Facebook agreeing to introduce “more robust systems” to detect and remove such content; and eBay saying it has improved its existing filters to “better identify and block listings” for the sale or trade of online reviews.
Commenting in a statement, CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We’re pleased that Facebook and eBay are doing the right thing by committing to tackle this problem and helping to keep their sites free from posts selling fake reviews.”
“Fake reviews are really damaging to shoppers and businesses alike. Millions of people base their shopping decisions on reviews, and if these are misleading or untrue, then shoppers could end up being misled into buying something that isn’t right for them – leaving businesses who play by the rules missing out,” he added.
The CMA’s press release does not contain any detail of the kinds of improvements the pair have agreed to but Facebook told us it’s looking into developing automated technology to help detect and remove the bogus content.
Commenting in a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said:
Fraudulent activity is not allowed on Facebook or Instagram, including offering or trading fake reviews. While we have invested heavily to prevent this kind of activity across our services, we know there is more work to do and are working with the CMA to address this issue. Since we were first contacted by the CMA, we have identified and removed over 180 groups and 24 accounts for violating our rules and have taken robust steps to prevent this type of fraudulent activity from re-appearing on our platforms. This includes exploring the use of automated technology to help us detect and remove this content quickly, before people see it and report it to us.
An eBay spokesperson also told us: “We maintain zero tolerance for fake or misleading reviews and will continue to take action against any seller that breaches our user polices. We welcome today’s CMA report, as well as their acknowledgement of our ongoing enforcement work on this issue.”
Despite the CMA chalking up the platforms’ pledge to ‘do more’ as a win for consumers, it also reveals it’s found fresh examples of fake reviews traded on Facebook-owned Instagram — suggesting the game of whack-a-fake goes on. And will go on, unless or until platforms face more robust regulation and enforcement vis-a-vis the content they spread and monetize.
The CMA notes that websites have a responsibility to ensure that unlawful and harmful content isn’t advertised or sold through their platforms. However, as it stands, there’s little real punishment for failing to tackle the trade in bogus reviews — beyond reputational damage (and the slow burn of user trust).
The UK government recently proposed legislation to tackle a range of online harms, setting out a safety-first plan to regulation Internet firms last year — which could mean more stringent controls on platform content in future. For now, though, regulators only really have tough words in their toolbox to try to make tech giants clean up their act.
The CMA says it reported the instances of fake reviews that it found being traded on Instagram to Facebook, adding: “Facebook has committed to investigate the issue” — and saying it “will be seeking a commitment from Facebook to take action to tackle these further issues.”
Facebook fighting against disinformation: Launch new options
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has dismantled new malicious networks that used vaccine debates to harass professionals or sow division in some countries, a sign that disinformation about the pandemic, spread for political ends, is on the wane not.
“They insulted doctors, journalists and elected officials, calling them supporters of the Nazis because they were promoting vaccines against the Covid, ensuring that compulsory vaccination would lead to a dictatorship of health,” explained Mike Dvilyanski, director investigations into emerging threats, at a press conference on Wednesday.
He was referring to a network linked to an anti-vaccination movement called “V_V”, which the Californian group accuses of having carried out a campaign of intimidation and mass harassment in Italy and France, against health figures, media and politics.
The authors of this operation coordinated in particular via the Telegram messaging system, where the volunteers had access to lists of people to target and to “training” to avoid automatic detection by Facebook.
Their tactics included leaving comments under victims’ messages rather than posting content, and using slightly changed spellings like “vaxcinati” instead of “vaccinati”, meaning “people vaccinated” in Italian.
The social media giant said it was difficult to assess the reach and impact of the campaign, which took place across different platforms.
This is a “psychological war” against people in favor of vaccines, according to Graphika, a company specializing in the analysis of social networks, which published Wednesday a report on the movement “V_V”, whose name comes from the Italian verb “vivere” (“to live”).
“We have observed what appears to be a sprawling populist movement that combines existing conspiratorial theories with anti-authoritarian narratives, and a torrent of health disinformation,” experts detail.
They estimate that “V_V” brings together some 20,000 supporters, some of whom have taken part in acts of vandalism against hospitals and operations to interfere with vaccinations, by making medical appointments without honoring them, for example.
Change on Facebook
Facebook announces news that will facilitate your sales and purchases on the social network.
Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Facebook, announced that the parent company would now be called Meta, to better represent all of its activities, from social networks to virtual reality, but the names of the different services will remain unchanged. A month later, Meta is already announcing news for the social network.
The first is the launch of online stores in Facebook groups. A “Shop” tab will appear and will allow members to buy products directly through the group in question.
Other features have been communicated with the aim of facilitating e-commerce within the social network, such as the display of recommendations and a better mention of products or even Live Shopping. At this time, no date has been announced regarding the launch of these new options.
In the light of recent features, the company wants to know the feedback from its users through the survey same like what Tesco doing to get its customers feedback via Tesco Views Survey. However, the company is still about this feedback will announce sooner than later in this regard.
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