Does that vile pizza joint down the block have a suspiciously high Yelp review, thanks to a series of glowing, five-star reviews by people who’ve written only the one and also sound suspiciously like the manager but wearing a Groucho Marx disguise?
Well, the long arm of the law is reaching out for them, at last. The New York Times reports that, after a yearlong investigation, New York State is cracking down on the practice of fluffing your online reviews with fake positive reviews, as well as the companies who’ll do the dirty work for a small fee.
The attorney general’s office has settled with 19 companies for $350,000 in penalties, total. That does include firms pumping out B.S. reviews. But there are also businesses that you’d really want objective feedback on, like a laser hair-removal chain, a charter bus operator (that wasn’t the Fung Wah, shockingly) and an “adult entertainment club.”
Mr. Schneiderman told the Times:
“What we’ve found is even worse than old-fashioned false advertising…. When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving.”
Well, yes, if you haven’t already learned the hard way that the Internet is a palace of lies.