By Mary Beth Quirk September 24, 2013
New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman offered up a doozy of an accomplishment yesterday, revealing that 19 companies had agreed to pay fines for writing fake online reviews for their businesses, and will be shelling out more than $350,000 in penalties. And of course, since the practice of churning out false reviews is called “astroturfing,” the year-long investigation run by Schneiderman was called “Operation Clean Turf.”
Schneiderman’s office dipped its toes into the sometimes dark world of reputation management, where companies either pay freelancers to write up glowing reviews on websites like Yelp or in some cases, have their employees bend their minds to the task.
In a press release Schneiderman says astroturfing had led to a veritable ocean of fake consumer reviews on Yelp, Google Local and Citysearch. Companies would either create fake online profiles on review sites or send money as far away as Bangladesh to produce reviews for $1 to $10 per review.
“Consumers rely on reviews from their peers to make daily purchasing decisions on anything from food and clothing to recreation and sightseeing,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution. And companies that continue to engage in these practices should take note: ‘Astroturfing’ is the 21st century’s version of false advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it.”
As a result of the investigation, 19 companies involved have agreed to stop astroturfing and pay penalties ranging rom $2,500 to $100,000. Curious if you were wooed by a fake review? Check out the complete list of businesses who will no longer be astroturfing in the source link below.
A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement With 19 Companies To Stop Writing Fake Online Reviews And Pay More Than $350,000 In Fines [New York Attorney General's Office]
I'm so glad to see hard-earned tax dollars being used to crack down on these heinous crimes of fake Yelp reviews. Oh, the horrors!