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NY Attorney General Settles With 19 Companies In Fake Review Crackdown
Little by little, the fake online review industry is cracking.
Today, the New York Attorney General’s office announced a settlement with 19 companies that agreed to stop writing fake online reviews. They’ll also pay more than $350,000 in fines. The announcement marks the end of a year-long investigation that the AG’s office called “Operation Clean Turf.”
The full list of 19 companies is available in the attorney general’s announcement. It includes a mix of SEO/marketing firms and small businesses. A handful of companies agreed to pay fines that range from $2,500 to almost $100,000, while all 19 agreed to put an end to the writing and soliciting of fake reviews.
NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had this to say about today’s announcement:
This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution. And companies that continue to engage in these practices should take note: “Astroturfing” is the 21st century’s version of false advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it.
Indeed, the risk-reward pendulum on fake reviews may still swing heavily toward “reward,” but this and other recent moves might be changing that.
Edmunds.com recently took a marketing firm to court over fake accounts and reviews; that case was eventually settled out of court.
Yelp has been particularly aggressive of late, suing a law firm over fake reviews and also suing a paid review mill. Yelp has also started to post consumer alerts on the Yelp profile pages of businesses that are found to be trying to game its review rules.