By Nathalie Voit

E-commerce giant Amazon on Feb. 22 filed a lawsuit against two major fake review brokers, AppSally and Rebatest, accused of filling the site with misleading and incentivized product reviews, the company said in a press release. 

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle, accused the two companies of allegedly selling fake reviews to third-party vendors in exchange for money or free products.

“Fake review brokers attempt to profit by deceiving unknowing consumers and creating an unfair competitive advantage that harms our selling partners,” said Dharmesh Mehta, VP of WW Customer Trust & Partner Support at Amazon.

Amazon eliminated over 200 million suspected fake reviews to date with the help of machine learning algorithms and anti-fraud and abuse personnel. In 2021, Amazon reported more than 16,000 fraudulent groups to social networking platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, helping shut down nefarious websites with millions of members.

However, review fraudsters have devised innovative ways to escape detection in recent years, complicating efforts by Amazon to stop bad actors.

An in-depth investigation into the industry has revealed over 900,000 members willing to write incentivized reviews for AppSally and Rebatest. “Verified reviews” from the fake review service AppSally can sell for as low as $20. The website allegedly promised merchants they “could outrank their competitors from their bedroom,” according to the complaint.

Amazon is seeking unspecified damages in both lawsuits, in addition to an injunction to bar the companies from orchestrating or facilitating the sale of Amazon reviews, CNBC said. 

The case is the latest attempt by Amazon to root out fake reviews in its sprawling digital marketplace. The company successfully sued and shut down two major fake review websites in Germany and the U.K. in late 2021.

In addition to investing more in AI and human moderators, Amazon asked other social media companies to double down on their efforts to eliminate fraud as fake-review communities have increasingly come to infiltrate popular messaging services like WhatsApp and WeChat or have popped up in Facebook groups.

“We know how valuable trustworthy reviews are to our customers. That is why we are holding these review fraudsters accountable. While we prevent millions of suspicious reviews from ever appearing in our store, these lawsuits target the source,” Mehta said.