After a year long undercover investigation, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman came down hard on companies who participated in the act of soliciting fake positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Google Local, Citysearch and more.
"Astroturfing," is the act of soliciting someone to write fake reviews for cash. All in told 19 companies were found guilty of the practice and ordered to pay 350,000 in total fines. One company alone owed nearly 100,000 of that fine.
I guess because it's easier to pay the low cost of 1 to 10 dollars per review than, you know, improve your business.
Schneiderman's office posted an example of someone soliciting this kind of job:
We need a person that can post multiple positive reviews on major REVIEW sites. Example: Google Maps, Yelp, CitySearch. Must be from different IP addresses… So you must be able to have multiple IPs. The reviews will be only few sentences long. Need to have some understanding on how Yelp filters works. Previous experience is a plus…just apply --)we are a marketing company
A typical astroturfing review would look like this, from a woman named Susan from Salt Like, who apparently is really in to New York City's infamous strip club Scores:
We came into New York from Europe on a layover, and wanting to see the nightlife, started at Scores. What a proper good time. Sorry we had no more time, as different nights at Scores would have afforded us the joy of Lingerie (Lingerie Mondays) or Western Night Six-shooting hotties. Still, it was lovely to sit a bit and be spoiled by beautiful dames with double Ds doing private numbers I understand can be had any night Scores is open.
Yelp applauded the Attorney General's move. Because it's so hard running a big old company to actually police every last thing yourself. Especially when you have a lot of employees. Where have I heard that before? Oh right. Google and Youtube. By the way, Yelp ain't exactly 100% legit, either.
Yelp's stock dropped 8% upon the news that it is populated with fake reviews. Surprise.
Here are some of the companies who paid anywhere from $2500 to just under $100K for the B.S.:
Zamdel: SEO company, under the name of eBoxed. Posted more than 1,500 fake reviews.
XVIO, Inc: SEO. Bribed participants with free or discounted swag in exchange for good reviews.
Laser Cosmetica: hired an SEO company for fake reviews, offered discounts in exchange.
US Coachways: A bus charter company. Offered cash to freelance reviewers, or $50 gift certificates.
Swam Media Group, Inc/Scores Media Group: The Strip Club employed one freelance writer to make 175 fake reviews. (Did he get a lap dance, too?)
If you want to read the rest of the list it's at the bottom of the Attorney General's press release.
Remember kids, lying's bad mmkay?