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An article by Gabriel Daros in Rest of World discusses a recent trend in product reviews in Brazil. For as little as $4 each, freelancers create scripted product review videos. The videos are in Portuguese, one minute long, and appear to be real customers reviewing products. They’re not. Companies hire these contractors because they’re a cheap way of boosting product ratings, which translates into more sales to more customers. Paid testimonials like these are heavily scripted by the hiring agents and the reviewers are actors hired to make amateur-style videos in which they publicly vouch for products.

Why should a Brazilian trend bother you?

Because there’s no way this sort of thing goes on only in Brazil. Fake reviews are such a problem in the United States that the Federal Trade Commission is enacting new rules that will assess fines of up to $50,000 dollars for each time a consumer sees a review. The businesses using the fake reviews, the writers of the fake reviews, and the middlemen who hire the writers of the fake reviews are the targets of these fines, and rightfully so. It is only a halfway measure, though, because the sites that host these fraudulent reviews are not held accountable.

Posters versus Hosters

Posters tell whatever stories they want. Hosters take those stories and make them accessible to everyone on the InterWeb. Amazon, Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. are all sites that take posters’ money to host those fake reviews. Why are the hosters not fined? If not for their enabling, the posters would have no public platform for their cheating.  

Product (and service) reviews

Most people know some reviews are fake, but few realize how many. Consumer advocacy groups estimate that as many as half of all online reviews are fraudulent, including the positive review you posted for a product because the company gave you a free gift card. With the increase in fake video reviews, it’s only going to get worse.

Misplaced trust

  • 95% of customers read online reviews before buying.
  • 9 out of 10 people report being influenced by customer reviews.
  • 8 out of 10 trust online reviews as much as recommendations from their friends.

Amazon, Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and many others make trillions from people who buy after being influenced by their online reviews

They all have programs in place to “give back to the community” by helping out in times of disaster, feeding people in need, aiding refugees, and more. All well and good, but shouldn’t one of the ways they give back be by aggressively stamping out fraud to protect their customers from criminals? 

Aiding and abetting

This term refers to someone who helps a criminal commit a crime. Aren’t hosters aiding and abetting posters? And if these criminal acts are organized and ongoing, how about an online RICO statute? And while we’re at it, how about the same aggressive pursuit of and severe punishment for those who bombard us with pamming emails, texts, and calls?

Bottom line

I’d vote for someone who would clean up the cesspool the internet has become — a quagmire of cheaters, wrongdoers, and thieves.


PCMag, poster of technology product reviews, says three out of four shoppers are confident they can detect fake product reviews on Amazon. It’s possible if they’re using a program such as Fakespot, Trustpilot, and others. Their human-programmed machines scan reviews for you and grade their trustworthiness from A to F.

These programs work sometimes, but not always (human programming errors are the main culprits). On occasion, I’ve seen a well-made, well-regarded, household-name product get a failing grade that can be overridden with common sense, but I agree that tools like this do weed out the worst offenders. 

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