The regulator said today that Facebook has removed 16,000 groups sharing false opinions on its platform after another intervention by the UK Competition and Markets Authority.
The CMA has relied on tech giants to prevent their platforms from being used as booming markets for selling fake reviews since it began investigating the issue in 2018, and has pressured both eBay and Facebook to take action against fake comment sellers in 2019.
The two companies pledged to do more to tackle the malicious trade last year, after coming under mounting pressure from the regulator, which found Facebook-owned Instagram was also a thriving hub for sharing fake reviews.
The latest CMA intervention appears to be more significant than last year’s action, when Facebook removed only 188 groups and disabled 24 user accounts. Although it is unclear how many accounts it has banned and / or suspended the tech giant has, this time it has removed more volume orders than groups. (We asked).
To update: We understand that the regulator has focused on eliminating groups that share false or misleading opinions, rather than individual accounts, given that blocked or suspended users can create new profiles, while eliminating the group in which the exchange of wrong opinions is taking place is problematic. The most effective way to influence and deter activity.
Facebook was also contacted with questions, but did not respond to what we asked directly, so send us this statement instead:
We have partnered extensively with the Capital Markets Authority to address this issue. Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not permitted on our platforms, including displaying or sharing false opinions. Our safety and security teams are constantly working to help prevent these practices. “
Since the CMA raised the issue of trading fake reviews, Facebook has repeatedly come under fire for not doing enough to clean up its platforms, in the plural.
Today, the regulator said that the social media giant has made further changes to the systems it uses to “identify, eliminate and prevent the circulation of false and / or misleading reviews on their platforms to ensure they fulfill their previous obligations.”
It’s unclear why Facebook took more than a year, and a series of high-profile interventions, to define actions against the fake audit trade. But the company has indicated that the resources it has available to address the problem have been depleted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated impacts, such as working at home. (Facebook’s annual revenue increased in 2020, and so did its spending.)
According to CMA, the changes Facebook made to its system to combat fake review marketers include:
Suspend or block users who frequently create Facebook groups and Instagram profiles that promote, encourage or facilitate false and misleading comments.
Introduce new automated processes that improve detection and removal of this content
It makes it difficult for people to use Facebook search tools to find fake and misleading review groups and profiles on Facebook and Instagram
Establish custom processes to ensure these changes continue to operate effectively and to prevent problems from appearing again
Again, it’s not clear why Facebook hasn’t suspended or banned repeat offenders, at least if it is already taking bona fide steps to actually solve the problem, rather than knowing if it can get away with doing so.
Commenting on a statement, Andrea Coselli, CEO of the Capital Markets Authority, essentially explained the point, saying, “Facebook has a duty to do everything possible to stop such content from being circulated on its platforms. After we intervened again, the company made major changes, but It’s disappointing that it took more than a year to fix these issues. “
“We will continue to closely monitor Facebook, including its Instagram business. If we discover that it is not fulfilling its obligations, we will not hesitate to take further action,” added Coselli.
A quick search on Facebook for UK groups trading fake reviews appears to yield less questionable results than when we reviewed this issue in 2019 and 2020. Although the results returned included a number of private groups, they are They did. It is not possible to immediately verify the requested content of the members.
We also found a number of Facebook groups providing custom Amazon reviews for other European markets, such as France and Spain (and in a general group targeting Amazon Spain we found someone providing ‘fees’ through PayPal for review; see screenshot below), which indicates that Facebook isn’t paying the same The level of concern for addressing false reviews of users in markets where it faces fewer regulatory attacks than it is in the UK.
Screen capture: TechCrunch