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Facebook and eBay urged to act to stop fake reviews

The competitions watchdog has called upon online giants Facebook and eBay to act urgently to stop fake and misleading reviews appearing on their sites, after finding evidence of a "thriving marketplace" for false online reviews.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it performed web sweeps between November 2018 and June 2019, and found:

  • Over 100 eBay listings where people offered fake reviews for sale.
  • 26 Facebook groups where people either offered to write fake reviews, or were recruited by businesses to write and post them on popular shopping or review sites.

The CMA says an estimated 75% of UK internet users consider online reviews when choosing which products to buy, and could make poor choices as a result of fake or misleading reviews.

It says it wrote to Facebook and eBay on 20 June to tell them about its concerns and to ask them to remove this content and put measures in place to stop it reappearing.

The watchdog stressed that it didn't think eBay and Facebook were intentionally allowing this content on their sites, and that both had agreed to co-operate with its requests. Facebook says it's removed 24 of the 26 groups.

What does the CMA say?

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: "Lots of us rely on reviews when shopping online to decide what to buy. It is important that people are able to trust that reviews are genuine, rather than something someone has been paid to write.

"Fake reviews mean that people might make the wrong choice and end up with a product or service that's not right for them. They're also unfair to businesses who do the right thing.

"We want Facebook and eBay to conduct an urgent review of their sites to prevent fake and misleading online reviews from being bought and sold."

What do the firms say?

An eBay spokesperson said: "We have zero tolerance for fake or misleading reviews. Listings such as these are strictly against our policy on illegal activity and we will act where our rules are broken.

"We welcome the report from the CMA and will work closely with them in reviewing its findings."

A Facebook spokesperson said: "Fraudulent activity is not allowed on Facebook, including the trading of fake reviews.

"We have removed 24 of the 26 groups and pages that the CMA reported to us yesterday and had already removed a number of them prior to the CMA flagging them to us.

"We know there is more to do, which is why we've tripled the size of our safety and security team to 30,000 and continue to invest in technology to help proactively prevent abuse of our platform."

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