BS, there is no will at Amazon, tech won't help.
Amazon has lots of good tech to analyze posting history already. For example, they started un-counting reviewers who too-frequently up-vote, or downvote, the same other reviewers years ago. To avoid fanboi effects.
But they have a serious problem with dodgy merchandise reviews and they are doing very little to correct it. 6 months ago, I would have said "sure there are fake reviews, but it's hard to spot reliably". After all, it will be pretty difficult to know if a review was brokered somewhere, right?
Then I bought a book by this guy which totally blew my mind on fraud. The patterns are right there, in Amazon's review system and blindingly obvious. And Amazon does nada.
Sam Keys, he of 52 "programming in a day" books since... Sept 2014. Including, I kid you not "C++ In a Day" and "Android Programming in a Day".
Pattern is always the same:
- book comes out. gets 30-40 reviews in a day or two, right after publication. All 5 star reviews "gosh I am starting to program, this book was a big help".
- 30-50 page book, about $3 typically. Low enough for you to walk away. Contents are amazingly shamefully lightweight - things like no sample app on an Android book.
- If you look at the "customers also purchased" link you will see those reviewers typically have reviewed 4-5 other books by Sam.
- Those reviewers have odd posting patterns (often in the dietary supplement field too). They will nearly always post 5 stars ratings, except for the odd 1 star (slag a competitor for pay?). They won't post for months but then they'll do 3-5 reviews in a day.
- Some time later real reviews start coming. "All those upvotes must be fake. Didn't even have a sample program/conditional logic/example". So now the book has 95% 5 stars, 5% of 1 star reviews, nothing in between.
But here's the clincher. I, and other reviewers, have contacted Amazon customer support about Mr Keys and notified them of this abuse. They did get back to me, told me they would investigate but could not comment and ... left things just as they were.
So, bullshit on the idea that Amazon needs smarter algos to flag what they know already but don't want to clean up. Either because it ends up making them money or because their legal dept have told them it would constitute refusal of sale to the publisher and could not stand up in court.
I still buy from Amazon, but they've definitely lost my trust. I noticed this pattern for this publisher, sure, but once you are aware of it, you notice how pervasive it is. His reviewers, and others just like them, are touching many, many products and those are only the really obvious cases. And I really can't forgive Amazon for knowingly looking the other way.