Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ensuring That Internet Reviews Are Fair

First up, in the interests of full disclosure, let me say I was harassed on Amazon and by email by a malicious reviewer/troll. I discovered a series of fake one star reviews on other peoples books and when I pointed that out on an authors forum, she turned her attention to me. It took A LOT of emails to amazon to get her reviews removed, despite proof in the form of emails, her IP address and the threats from her email, proof that she was selling good amazon reviews on Fourrer not to mention, her own review account’s extremely suspect behaviour. It wasn’t so much a case that her review dragged down my average rating, they didn’t by any a noticeable amount, it was that someone had threatened and harassed me, and Amazon just wanted to ignore it. It wasn’t right that she be allowed to get away with it (which is why I brought her to the attention of other authors she had targeted) and considering the abundance of evidence I provided, it should not have been as hard as it was to get her malicious reviews taken off.

Feel free to go read that saga if you’re up for it but it isn’t necessary for this post.

It’s because of this incident that I’ve given this subject (how to ensure that reviews are fair, without a knee jerk reaction) a lot of thought. 

You’ll see some of my earlier ideas in the comments of that thread. None of those were perfect (and this probably isn’t either) but I believe it’s the best option to ensure fairness for all parties, ie, reviewers, as well as the people, products and businesses being reviewed. 

Online reviews are a hot topic at the moment. People like Anne Rice are pressing for reviewers not to be allowed to be anonymous on sites like Amazon, while reviewers on Trip Advisor are being sued personally, for leaving bad reviews about establishments.

So what’s the answer?

There are a few things first that we have to admit before we can have a reasonable discussion about this.

1) People do leave fake malicious reviews. Sometimes to get back at an ex (or his new partner in one case i read of), because of a grudge or vendetta, or just because they're trolls