Facebook removes 16,000 groups trading in fake reviews after watchdog probe

An eyeball with the Facebook logo reflecting in it
The Canary

Facebook has removed more than 16,000 groups trading in fake and misleading reviews following pressure from the UK’s competition watchdog.

Pressured into action

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the technology giant had made “significant changes” following its investigations last year, as online shopping became ever more vital during coronavirus lockdowns. But the watchdog’s chief executive Andrea Coscelli said it is “disappointing” it took the firm more than a year.

In January 2020, the CMA secured commitments from Facebook that it would improve efforts to identify and remove groups and other pages where fake and misleading reviews were sold.

This was extended to Instagram, which Facebook owns, in May.

According to the CMA, the social network has cracked down further by making changes to its systems, including suspending or banning users who repeatedly create such groups and making it harder for people to search for them.

Peak online

Coscelli said:

Never before has online shopping been so important. The pandemic has meant that more and more people are buying online, and millions of us read reviews to enable us to make informed choices when we shop around.

That’s why fake and misleading reviews are so damaging – if people lose trust in online reviews, they are less able to shop around with confidence, and will miss out on the best deals. It also means that businesses playing by the rules miss out.

Facebook has a duty to do all it can to stop the trading of such content on its platforms. After we intervened again, the company made significant changes – but it is disappointing it has taken them over a year to fix these issues.

We will continue to keep a close eye on Facebook, including its Instagram business.

Should we find it is failing to honour its commitments, we will not hesitate to take further action.

A Facebook spokesperson said:

We have engaged extensively with the CMA to address this issue.

Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews.

Our safety and security teams are continually working to help prevent these practices.

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us