Fake Reviews

A lot of of buying choices are based on reviews from TripAdvisor, Amazon, etc.. Some of these are fake. One journalist highlighted the problem by writing fake restaurant reviews for his garden shed. He managed to get his shed the top rating for any London restaurant!

Online companies make efforts to detect fake reviews, but tricksters improve their skills. No-one has yet won this war so if you’re buying something important you need to think about whether you can trust the reviews. How can you tell if they’re fake? There are tips in the articles linked below. But first…

You might want to speed things up with automated tools. Paste the web address into the box and they’ll run tests and give it a rating. (NB: These sites were recommended in the CNBC article linked below but I also ran VirusTotal over them and they tested clean).

FakeSpot.Com handles TripAdvisor, Amazon and a couple of other sites.

ReviewMeta.Com gives you a lot of information and explanation as to how the figures are arrived at. It seems to handle Amazon only.

You’ll need to get used to these tools. Running the same web address through both will give you a good comparison. Perhaps one of them is often more negative than the other. Test a few products or services that you’ve been happy with and where you’re confident that the rating is accurate. Remember this isn’t an exact science. Try pasting this link (to a Galaxy S9 Glass Screen Protector) into both engines:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B9W9DN8/ (the address comes from the BuzzFeed article linked below)

Amazon currently shows only 2 reviews, while at the time of writing Fakespot shows 642. This probably means Amazon have recently taken down nearly all the reviews, and Fakespot are displaying the result of a test they ran earlier. The ReviewMeta result agrees with Amazon, listing only two reviews. Here’s another one with less extreme results: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074SJV133/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1#customerReviews

Both sites show an adjusted score after removing the reviews they think are fake. If you’re using the sites to help you make decisions, use your judgment to decide how much you’ll rely on the adjusted scores.

Perhaps you want to do the job yourself instead of using the online checkers. The consumer magazine “Which?” provides tips on what to look for: The facts about fake reviews. Which? also check on customer reviews when they write up articles on individual products. You may be able to find Which? at your reference library. Here’s a direct link to the podcast from the article: Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, on Nick Ferrari’s LBC show to discuss fake reviews

… and one more article: Amazon has a problem with fake reviews — here’s how holiday shoppers can avoid falling for them (CNBC.COM)


This Daily Mail article refers to a claim by Fakespot, and also include a statement from TripAdvisor in answer to it:
‘One in three TripAdvisor reviews is fake’: Hotels are accused of trying to manipulate their ratings on the site by paying third parties to give five-star write-ups and rubbish their rivals (Daily Mail)

Deep Dive

Buzzfeed: Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy

Reply All Podcast #124: The Magic Store This 2018 podcast is about one woman’s experience with an unsatisfactory product she bought on Amazon. It goes deeper into the methods some merchants use to get unfair advantages on Amazon. Please note:There is occasional swearing in the ReplyAll podcast series and if you are culturally conservative you may find some of the conversation offensive.

Fake News (and you)

The creator of fake news wants to influence you. They often hide why they’re trying to persuade you.

They tell deliberate lies – or take no trouble to check the facts. Or maybe the words are true if you read them very carefully, but the facts chosen are unbalanced. You only hear one side of the story so you get a false impression.

Start the Fightback

You don’t even have to get out of your chair. Part of the fake news problem is the attitude of people reading it. Try to be more sceptical about news generally.

According to the Oxford Dictionary a sceptic is: “One who maintains a doubting attitude”.  We shouldn’t believe news just because it’s exciting or shocking. We run a few tests in our head. What kind of questions should we ask? Librarians should able to offer good advice. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has published what you see below.

How to spot fake news
Find a list of other language versions here

Next time you see something sensational you might want to check it against the chart and see whether it passes the tests. What else can help?

Try listening to all sides of an argument, especially if you hold a strong opinion. Even if it doesn’t change your point of view, knowing why others think differently will help you to be clearer on your reasons for thinking as you do.

Of course, you’re not guaranteed to get to the truth that way. Everyone may be distorting the facts even if they don’t mean to. Fact-checking websites may help. These are often run by charities and try to be unbiased (although no human can be completely unbiased).

Fact Checking


Full Fact is the UK’s independent factchecking charity
Channel 4: FactCheck
Independent: Fake News


Snopes: What’s New

Other programmes and web content don’t provide fact-checking services but claim to get to the real story behind all the politics and propaganda, so they’re worth a look:


What eight years of writing the Bad Science column have taught me (Ben Oldacre)


BBC Radio 4: More Or Less


Of course, Twitter has a special place in fake news, but deciding what to believe is no different from anywhere else. Just a note about the “Twitter Verified Account” tick mark. It means Twitter has checked that this person really is who they say they are. It doesn’t mean that everything they tweet is true.

Repeat Offenders

Since you can’t spend all your time fact-checking it’s helpful to improve the quality of news you see. If you find that a site has a bad reputation, you can stay away from it.
List of Fake News Web Sites

Explaining it to the Next Generation

These skills will benefit your kids for life, so here are a few things you could show them (They’re for very young kids and don’t have any sound. I’ll post something better when I find it):
Who Writes the Internet Anyway?
Don’t jump to conclusions, #AskforEvidence
It’s ok to #AskforEvidence

Deep Dive

If you want to go deeper into this topic, here are a couple of deep dives:
Podcast: The Ugly Truth (Sense About Science at the British Library)
Editorial: Sky Views: Facebook’s fake news threatens democracy

Fact Checking