Bots, Click Farms and Fakers: The New Challenges to Amazon’s Credibility

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After ‘fake reviews’ began to undermine the credibility of Amazon’s seller ratings a few years ago, they took significant action to crack down. However, as this very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal details Amazon is having to face down a new threat; bots and click farms. And they are far from the only e-commerce player in this position.

How Sellers Trick Amazon to Boost Sales

The digital giant battles click farms, reviewers-for-hire and other scams as merchants try to outsmart its product-ranking system.

Every day, dozens of young men crowd into tiny rooms with 30 computers each in northern Bangladesh. Their mission: Trick Amazon.com Inc.

They open Amazon.com and repeatedly type in search terms, each time clicking on the links of products they were paid to boost, according to people familiar with the practice. Amazon’s algorithms begin recognizing that these products are popular, ranking them higher in the search results. The higher the ranking, the better the chance of sales.

The scams are used to try to outsmart Amazon’s automated system that ranks some half-billion products in search results, according to interviews with consultants and businesses engaged in these practices, as well as sellers who say they have been approached by such businesses. It’s one of an ever-rotating wheel of tricks used to game Amazon’s algorithms. Some sellers pay off workers inside Amazon to gain competitive information. Others hurt rivals’ listings by barraging them with overly negative or positive reviews.

The tactics aren’t thwarting Amazon’s sales, which rose 39% in the second quarter, but they threaten to undermine the integrity of one of the world’s largest web marketplaces, which collects nearly half of every U.S. retail dollar spent online.

Amazon isn’t the only tech giant that has dealt with bad actors in the form of bots and click farms. Twitter Inc. has recently started clearing accounts flagged for suspicious activity from its systems, while Facebook Inc. has rolled out new features to make it easier to identify fake pages.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other advertising platforms have also faced an increase in potentially fraudulent traffic. In a recent study, Adobe found that about 28% of traffic across thousands of its clients’ websites showed strong “non-human signals,” leading the software company to believe that the traffic came from bots or click farms.

Fake Amazon reviews have been a problem for years, and Amazon has developed better countermeasures to fight them. But sellers are becoming more creative, spawning an entire underground economy offering to deceive Amazon’s algorithms. Read More

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