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