Amazon Reviews: A Rumpus Roundup

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Amazon filed suit against more than a thousand fake reviewers earlier this week.

Amazon is going after reviewers who sold their reviews for $5 on Fiverr, an online platform for minor tasks.

In July of this year, users began to notice that Amazon had begun data mining, linking authors and book reviewers and blocking people from posting reviews of books if Amazon suspected the reviewer knew the author.

Simply interacting with an author on social media like Twitter appeared to be enough for Amazon to consider the author/reviewer relationship compromised.

Given the small size of the literary and publishing community, this Amazon policy obviously creates some problems as authors and reviewers will inevitably end up interacting online and likely even in real life.

Nevertheless, Amazon does have a vested interest in cracking down on fake reviews. Researchers found in 2011 that close to one third of online reviews were fake.

The current crop of lawsuits isn’t the first for Amazon. The company filed a similar suit in April.

While ensuring accurate and honest product reviews on the site is good business for Amazon, there is more at stake. Honest criticism is important culturally. Adrienne Lafrance explains at the Atlantic:

Knowing what someone finds disappointing reveals a lot about what they’re seeking in the first place. Like the person who wrote, of Hamlet, “This has to be one of the worst plays ever written.” Or the reviewer who pointed out in a one-star review, that The Graduate is a “very whacked out movie.” Because, actually, it totally is! Also, you know, a masterpiece, but why bother with its reputation? I mean that seriously: There’s real value in encountering critical reaction to works that are so culturally lauded that they’re rarely questioned.

Meanwhile, the Guardian suggests Amazon also sue all the stupid reviewers, too:

Amazon’s reviews are full of the impotent howls of people who are only on Amazon because they can’t work out the Daily Mail’s arrow-based comment-rating system.


Ian MacAllen is the Rumpus Deputy Editor and founder of English Kills Review an online literary magazine focused on books, authors, and New York City. His writing has appeared in Little Fiction, Vol 1 Brooklyn, Joyland Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Fiction Advocate, and elsewhere. He holds a Master’s Degree in English from Rutgers University and lives in Brooklyn. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →