Facebook, eBay crack down on fake reviews after UK warning

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FILE – This March 29, 2018 file photo, shows the logo for social media giant Facebook at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York’s Times Square. Facebook said Monday Jan. 6, 2020 that it is banning “deepfake” videos, the false but realistic clips created with artificial intelligence and sophisticated tools, as it steps up efforts to fight online manipulation. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

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LONDON (AP) — Britain’s competition watchdog said Wednesday that Facebook and eBay pledged to crack down on the trade in fake reviews, removing hundreds of accounts, pages and groups involved in the illicit business after the regulator warned them.

The Competition and Markets Authority said the two U.S. tech companies agreed to step up efforts to detect, investigate and respond to fake and misleading reviews after it ordered them last year to address the problem.

Facebook removed 188 pages and groups and disabled 24 accounts that were involved in the fake review trade, some on its Instagram platform. Some of the groups offered in online posts to write fake reviews for payment or in exchange for products. Others recruited people to write them on shopping and review sites.

The total included 25 pages and groups the CMA found and whose removals were previously announced in June, when it initially warned of “troubling evidence that there is a thriving marketplace” for fake reviews. Facebook removed others it found on its own.

The regulator also said eBay permanently banned 53 users who were selling fake review services on the auction site and temporarily suspended another 176 users.

Facebook agreed to beef up its systems to detect and remove fake review material while eBay refined its existing filters to better identify and block listings for online review services, the CMA said.

“Fake reviews are really damaging to shoppers and businesses alike,” the regulator’s chief executive, Andrea Coscelli, said in a statement. “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.”

EBay said it has “zero tolerance for fake or misleading reviews and will continue to take action against any seller that breaches our user polices.”

Facebook said it has “invested heavily” to stop people offering or trading fake review services on its platforms, but “we know there is more work to do and are working with the CMA to address this issue.”

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