Way back in August, I wrote about how some of the most virulently negative reviews on Yelp.com may actually be written by well-intentioned superfans. Whatever you thought of that piece, one clear takeaway was that fake reviews and the people who write them are not okay by anyone’s definition.
Although we all know that fake Yelp reviews are neither encouraged nor acceptable by anyone, the fact remains that an overwhelming number of reviews posted to the site may, in fact, be fraudulent. Even the Yelp overlords recognize it. Last week, a spokesperson from the company told the British Broadcasting Corporation that some 25% of all reviews submitted to the site are flagged as “suspicious” and possibly fake.
Although the fake reviews have always been a nuisance, they have never been illegal. At least, they have never been illegal until now.
The State of New York, led by State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, has begun to fight back against the horrors of fake reviews, PCWorld recently reported. As part of the fight, the state signed agreements with 20 or so SEO companies. The agreement made it very clear that posting fake reviews is unacceptable and will be punished harshly. The fines can be as little as $2500 or as much as $350,000.
As technology changes, it will be easier for sites like Yelp to pick out the fake reviews. Furthermore, it is likely that more states will follow New York’s lead and place some pretty hefty penalties on companies that have built a business around posting fake reviews. Ultimately SEO companies are going to have to find more above-board ways to do their dirty work.
Are you pleased with the penalties being placed on fake reviewers or do you think they may be a little harsh?