NY Attorney General Settles With 19 Companies In Fake Review Crackdown

pinocchio-lying-250pxLittle 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.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Legal: General | Word Of Mouth Marketing | Yelp

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.nathanielbailey.co.uk/ Nathaniel Bailey

    lol “SEO Companies” that no one has heard of?! I wish people like this would stop giving us real SEO’s a bad name! And I wish companies pushing to stop such shoddy scams would stop referring to them as SEO Companies because they are not! And all the time people are given the misconception that this is something real SEO companies and professional do, the more people are going to look down on the industry due to a few bad eggs that don’t know what they are doing!!!

    As for the “Advanced IP spoofing technology”… why try to hide what these cowboys where doing? Anyone with a brain knows all they need to do was use some private proxies like Joe has already pointed out at SEL!

  • Pat Grady

    Secret Shoppers (aka Mules) everywhere, are like… huh, why did the “work” dry up? What did I do wrong? Doh!

  • Pat Grady

    Of course, fake reviews aren’t the only place we see mule tracks…

  • Pat Grady

    “This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet”
    Cute. Naive, but cute. Yo AGs, if you think fake reviews are large-scale, unglue your microscope from your hat brim boys, there’s more to see.

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