10 to 15 per cent of online reviews will be fake by 2014: researchers

REUTERS/Vincent WestWhen shopping for a new gadget, many of us turn to online reviews to research our products of choice and see what others think about them. But a research firm says that by 2014, those will be increasingly unreliable, as they expect more than one-tenth of them to be fake by that year.

According to TechCrunch, research firm Gartner says that 10 to 15 per cent of all online reviews, as well as fans and "likes" on social media, will be fake by 2014.

Fake fans, followers and reviews are nothing new online, and there are plenty of them out there today. Just last month, Mitt Romney was accused of having thousands of fake followers on Twitter, and he was far from the only politician to have that accusation leveled at him.

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Gartner analyst and co-author of the fake followers study Ed Thompson says that today, about one to four per cent of social media interactions (including reviews, followers etc.) are fake. While most of us have known for a while that at least some of the reviews we read online are written by people paid to do so, the 10 per cent jump is nonetheless shocking.

The fake reviews aren't just bad news for consumers, however; Gartner predicts that in the next two years, the practice of paying for positive reviews or followers will land at least two major Fortune 500 companies in hot water with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

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Business Insider points out that one more party in this equation will suffer if this practice continues: the review sites themselves. If we start assuming that the sites have too many fake reviews, eventually, we'll all just stop seeking them out.