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Sock puppets aren’t cute anymore

Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013

Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 01:10

Many generations of children have learned sock puppets are fun and imaginative toys, but Amazon reviewers have turned the term “sock puppet” into a dirty word. 

An ongoing controversy has risen over the credibility of Amazon reviews due to users with alter-identity accounts, or sock puppets, who boast about their own products and bash competitors, according to Forbes magazine. 

Online shopping reviews are typically what people look for when they want honest feedback about the value of the product. Unfortunately, liars and cheaters are ruining that trust, causing online shoppers to be skeptical of everything they read. 

According to the New York Times, this controversy began with Todd Rutherford who advertised positive book reviews. The lowest option for a positive review was $99 and went up to as high as $1,000 for 50 reviews. He was making $28,000 a month with this service, despite the immediate complaints.

The fact that people felt the need to pay hundreds of dollars for a review just goes to show how poor the book must have been to begin with.  It is depressing how low people’s ethics will go if it’s for the
right price. 

Just last month, a well-known crime author, RJ Ellory, was caught criticizing competing authors and supporting his own work using these sock puppet identities on Amazon, according to The Guardian.   

Amazon provides a review creation guideline that specifically does not allow promotional material or repeated posts, reviews written for compensation or solicitation for helpful vote. Due to the nature of the Internet, it is impossible to regulate every account to make sure it is a legitimate person. However, Amazon can clearly state these rules on the review page and set up a system to monitor suspicious activity. To prevent further infringement on these rules, Amazon should create consequences, such as a locked account, for those who continue to act as sock puppets. 

There will always be loopholes, no matter what Amazon decides to do about this
controversy, unless the option for reviews is taken down
completely. This option seems very unlikely due to the nature of customer reliance of reviews for purchase. According to Marketing Land, a news and information site covering internet marketing, 90 percent of customers make purchasing decisions based
on reviews.  

Customer reviews from
ordinary people are important because evidence shows it is the best way to make a sale, which is what these sock puppets are going for in the first place. It’s important to be aware of the continuous use of sock puppet reviews that are sometimes very obvious. For example, if one amazing 5-star review is next to several 1-star reviews from actual unhappy customers, or one unhappy review next to many genuine 5-star reviews. 

Consumers need to be aware of the dirty sock puppets on the Internet manipulating their purchasing decisions. It is important to remember that just one review shouldn’t change a
person’s mind. 

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