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There is no denying the importance of online reviews to a company’s credibility and brand recognition; according to a recent study, 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. With so many users relying upon reviews, some businesses saw an opportunity to game the system by publishing false positive reviews of themselves – and deceptive negative write-ups of their competitors. The battle to stamp out fake reviews has been a long one; Yelp has introduced Consumer Alerts to advise customers of businesses that have incentivized the review process, and the FTC considers illegitimate evaluations illegal. Now, the state of New York has joined the fight; its recent year-long investigation into reputation enhancement has yielded 19 companies and 7 reputation-centric agencies that are involved in the illicit practice. The culprits have been fined a total of $350,000 for their missteps.
“Operation Clean Turf” had regulators pose as business owners whose companies were victims of unfairly negative online reviews, and were shopping for agencies that would produce false positive reviews to clean up their online reputations. A total of 7 such “agencies” took the bait, and revealed not only themselves but several of the clients to which they provided these types of services. A full list of companies that were named in the investigation and fined is available on Search Engine Watch.
Continue to read on our blog: Pull up the Astroturf: Fake Reviews Could Cost You $350,000
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