Facebook and eBay to Crack Down on Fake Reviews After UK Warning

Facebook and eBay have pledged to ban users who trade fake product reviews after a warning from the United Kingdom’s antitrust regulator.

The Competition and Markets Authority announced today that the social networking service and the e-commerce giant have signed agreements to “investigate and respond to fake and misleading reviews,” which are illegal under the UK’s consumer protection laws.

The two platforms have also promised to adopt measures that will help prevent such content from appearing on their sites. As Facebook beefs ups its systems to detect and remove such content, eBay is upgrading its filters to better identify and block listings for the sale or trade of online reviews.

“Fake reviews are really damaging to shoppers and businesses alike,” said CMA chief Andrea Coscelli. “Millions of people base their shopping decisions on reviews, and if these are misleading or untrue, then shoppers could end up being misled into buying something that isn’t right for them, leaving businesses who play by the rules missing out.”

The watchdog agency said its investigations also unearthed fake and misleading reviews for sale via Instagram — the photosharing platform owned by Facebook, which has committed to investigating the issue.

Facebook and eBay’s new commitments to combat fake reviews come seven months after the CMA flagged concerns over such reviews in June. Since then, Facebook has removed 188 groups and disabled 24 user accounts, while eBay has permanently banned 140 users. The effort is part of a broader program by the U.K. government department to tackle fake and misleading online reviews.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has also been tackling the issue of fake reviews on online marketplaces including Amazon. In February, the agency brought its first successful case against a company that it said paid to artificially boost its product’s ratings on the e-commerce platform.

An eBay spokesperson told FN, “We maintain zero tolerance for fake or misleading reviews and will continue to take action against any seller that breaches our user policies. We welcome today’s CMA report as well as their acknowledgement of our ongoing enforcement work on this issue.” FN has also reached out to Facebook for comment.

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