Just months after a similar lawsuit against websites selling fake reviews, America’s biggest retailer is now targeting individuals who shop fictional reviews on the website Fiverr.com.
“While small in number, these reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon’s brand,” Amazon’s lawyers wrote in its complaint, filed Friday.
The real names and locations of those targeted in the suit aren’t known yet. The shopping site conducted an investigation into the review sellers and is now working with Fiverr on the issue. It’s not clear what steps the site is taking and if it will reveal further details about the identities of its customers.
It’s almost certain that some of the individuals targeted in this lawsuit will be revealed to be outside of the United States, opening up questions about Amazon’s ability to litigate across borders.
Positive and numerous Amazon reviews can help form an immediate better impression of products for intentional customers, but it’s not clear exactly how much they help.
The retail titan has a powerful ranking algorithm that responds to searches on the site like “refrigerator.” A refrigerator that lands at the top of search results will attract much more attention than another way down the list, so businesses aim to rise as high as they can on that list.
But the mechanics of the algorithm are secret and regularly changed, so it’s not clear what influence reviews have at this point.
That opaqueness apparently doesn’t matter much to the people paying for fake reviews, probably because they only cost a few bucks each. Even the prospect of a small but non-guaranteed rise in Amazon’s rankings is enough to bring many thousands of businesses into buying fake reviews every year.