Amazon, which has struggled for years to combat counterfeiting and fraud on its e-commerce platform, has criticized social media companies for undermining its integrity efforts.
In an article associated with its Project Zero anti-counterfeiting initiative, which launched in 2019, the computer rental and gift industry celebrated its focus on customers while blaming unidentified social media companies for not taking measures against peddlers of false product reviews.
Coincidentally, Amazon’s lobbying reportedly helped eliminate the Inform Consumers Act, which proposed anti-counterfeiting legislation that would have required Amazon to authenticate third-party merchants on its platform. The company says the legislation favored physical businesses.
Either way, Amazon said that while “over many years” it has developed and deployed technology to prevent fake reviews from ever being seen, it recognizes that its approach has limits, so it does. is why he instructed customers and salespeople to report fake reviews – without paying for their time or labor.
But even those efforts proved insufficient, the company said, as opinion manipulators took to social media to facilitate what Facebook would call “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
“As a result of our continued improvements in fake reviews detection and connections between buy and sell accounts of bad actors, we’ve seen a growing trend of bad actors attempting to solicit fake reviews outside of Amazon,” especially through social media services, ”the company said.
“Some people use social media services themselves; in other cases, they hire a third-party service provider to carry out this activity on their behalf. However, malicious actors regularly try to get this transaction out of Amazon to mask our ability to detect their activity. and the relationship between the multiple accounts that commit or profit from this abuse. “
Amazon says it has identified more than three times as many groups associated with fake reviews in the first three months of 2021 (1,000+) than in the same period of 2020 (300+) and ecommerce has praised them. social media companies to respond more quickly to reports of abuse. The median response time to shut down groups accused of rule violations fell from 45 days last year to just five days this year. It counts for something.
Still, Amazon wants social media companies to take uninvited action and monitor platform activity.
“While we appreciate that some social media companies have become much faster to respond, to solve this problem at scale, it is imperative that social media companies adequately invest in proactive controls to detect and enforce false notice before reporting the problem to them. , “It said.
Amazon hasn’t identified which social media companies it’s thinking of, but security researchers have observed that Facebook and its Instagram affiliate play a major role in creating and distributing fake reviews, as they do with fake news. .
In preprint paper [PDF] Distributed via ArXiv earlier this year, “The Fault in the Stars: Understanding the Underground Market of Amazon Reviews,” Rajvardhan Oak, a UC Berkeley graduate student who later joined Microsoft, wrote: “Our research reveals that Facebook plays an important role in the continued functioning of the underground journal market. “
Facebook does this by using advertisements. “Targeted ads make it easier to identify users who might be complicit in writing reasoned reviews and gradually lead them deeper into the underground market,” the Oak newspaper explains.
This approach, described in a 2019 research article [PDF] as a “crowd attack”, can also be performed via neural language models like GPT-2 NLM.
“Because this method has an economic cost, it is generally limited to large-scale attacks,” explains the paper on machine learning. “Automated crowdturfing, in which machine learning algorithms are used to generate fake reviews, is a cheaper and more efficient way to attack online rating systems. “
With Facebook reporting that it deleted 1.3 billion fake accounts in Q1 2021, up from 1.7 billion in Q1 2020, progress may be underway. But Facebook doesn’t provide details on how long these accounts have been active or how they were used during that time. Judging from Amazon’s own seller forums, fake reviews continue to be a problem.
Thus, Amazon requested “coordinated assistance from consumer protection regulators around the world.”
Separately, in Washington, DC on Wednesday before a Senate Judiciary Antitrust subcommittee, Amazon executives [PDF] and google [PDF] took turns championing their smart home speaker technology (Alexa and Google Assistant) and observed how competitive the market is (despite ongoing antitrust complaints against each company).
A Sonos executive [PDF] at the same time, decried the anticompetitive dominance of big tech, pointing out its inability to run Google Assistant on its speakers simultaneously with other assistant software, because Google would not allow it.
There were also academics who insisted that something be done, without being too certain of the specific remedies.
“Today, the platform companies appear to many as an imperial powerhouse,” observed Matt Crawford, researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies In Culture, in a prepared testimony. [PDF]. “The fundamental question” who governs? Is pressed to this body again. “
It’s a provocative question in a room full of policymakers, some of whom differ over who legitimately governs the United States. But it’s worth asking. ®