Nineteen NY firms fined in crackdown on fake reviews

State attorney general set up fake yoghurt store in sting operation

Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, set up a fake yoghurt shop in Brooklyn in a sting operation to trap fake online review companies. Photograph: Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times

Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, set up a fake yoghurt shop in Brooklyn in a sting operation to trap fake online review companies. Photograph: Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times

 

New York’s attorney general set up a fake yoghurt shop in Brooklyn in a sting operation to trap fake online review companies.

Eric Schneiderman announced agreements with 19 firms yesterday that commissioned fake reviews and several reputation-enhancement companies that helped place reviews on sites like Citysearch, Google, Yahoo and Yelp. They were fined a total of $350,000.

As part of a year-long investigation, dubbed Operation Clean Turf, officials posed as the owners of a Brooklyn yoghurt shop that received negative reviews online.

Fake reviews, written in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Eastern Europe, were commissioned from reputation management firms for as little as a dollar a piece.

“Consumers rely on reviews from their peers to make daily purchasing decisions on anything from food and clothing to recreation and sightseeing,” Mr Schneiderman said.

“This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution.”

Agreements were reached with a charter bus operator, a teeth-whitening service, a laser hair-removal chain and an adult entertainment club.
– (Guardian Service)