Last week a study revealed the importance of making sure that the first review for your client’s product is a good one. But if you’re based in New York State, you’ll have to be careful in soliciting positive feedback: Attorney General/consumer advocate Eric T. Schneiderman just helped enact the “most comprehensive crackdown to date on deceptive reviews on the Internet.”
The state’s yearlong investigation led to agreements (aka fines) with 19 companies including some of the best-known sources for online reviews as well as “reputation-enhancement firms” paid to astroturf for clients on sites like Google, Yahoo!, and Yelp.
Get ready for a fake shock: this practice went well beyond your typical restaurant and book reviews to ensnare doctors, lawyers and even “an ultrasound clinic”. The state conducted its research in classic undercover style, with an investigator posing as a business owner who suffered from negative write-ups and wanted his online reputation managed more aggressively.
Investigators found plenty of parties willing to lie for a price. Reputation firms at home and abroad didn’t just crank out reviews at a dollar-per-post rate—they also paid existing customers for more positive write-ups and even “went on review sites that criticized their own fake-review operations and wrote fake reviews denying they wrote fake reviews.”
Take a moment to read that sentence again.