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Thinking In Print: Be wary of online reviews

When shopping online, it’s always a good idea to research the product beforehand to ensure you get the best deal. Unfortunately, fabricating positive reviews through bots and paid individuals is a lucrative business, and one consumers must be wary of. 

Click farms are a nasty staple of the online world used to generate internet traffic in bulk. People can pay to have a bot or hired individuals like or share content, generate traffic to a website, reshare fake news and, of course, write fake reviews for a product. Click farms can be done with one person who has a couple of phones to large-scale operations with up to 17,000 devices generating fake engagement around the clock

Click farm services are a fraud but easy to access to promote a product. When I googled “buy Facebook reviews,” the search results showed many services more than willing to comply. Companies that want their product to have the illusion of authenticity and mass sales can easily pay to have people gush about their product while consumers are none the wiser.   

Apps are a major target for fabricated reviews, too. Buying services from click farms is considered an effective and cost-efficient way to boost a new app quickly. Since many customers look for new apps on the top charts, paying a click farm to get a newly developed app promoted can be a lucrative business operation. App Review Farms use their thousands of phones to install an app, give a review, uninstall and repeat under a different account. 

Countries like China and online algorithms have cracked down on these farms in recent years, but the business has merely evolved. Instead of using bots, click farms are relying on crowdsourcing to write fake reviews that are harder to detect.

Luckily for consumers, fake reviews can be detected if you know what to look for. Amazon includes a “verified purchaser” banner on accounts that purchased the product they are reviewing, which allows consumers to see if the reviewer owns the product and has the authority to discuss its merit. Outside of Amazon, be cautious of overly positive and vague reviews like “amazing” or “this product changed my life.” A valid reviewer will have a mixture of pros and cons for a product rather than only state the positives. 

Look at the reviewer’s grammar, too. An average, authentic reviewer will have a few spelling mistakes, while someone from a different language paid to write an English review may struggle. Even an immaculate review with perfect grammar could hint that someone was paid.

Online reviews offer a great opportunity to see if a product is right for you, but be cautious that the reviewers you’re trusting are genuine. There is a large incentive for those who aren’t.  

Charlene Pepiot is a senior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her, cp872117@ohio.edu.

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