NPR recently announced it was no longer allowing online comments on its articles. It was time to say goodbye to the loudest drunk in the bar. Increasingly, trolls who ruled the comment section chased away legitimate commenters. According to Scott Mongomery, managing editor for digital news, “Far less than one percent of that audience is commenting, and the number of regular comment participants is even smaller. Only 2,600 people have posted at least one comment in each of the last three months –– 0.003 percent of the 79.8 million NPR.org users who visited the site during that period.” As with online reviews, a small percentage of people—sometimes just one person—can post fake, harmful or misleading information. Up to a third of online reviews in certain categories are fake and unverified.
TruWeb Verified is an association of businesses that are fighting back. The patented TruSearch engine filters all non-verified, anonymous, fake reviews so people seeking honest feedback can find it in one ecosystem. Additionally, ‘real’ reviews—those that come from customers who can prove they have done business with a company—are easily retrieved. For businesses tired of playing “whack-a-mole” with anonymous trolls, the help couldn’t come any sooner.
One company, Link, decided to sue people behind fake accounts, on Yelp. The problem was the court filing admitted that it was “ignorant of true names and capacities.” That left the company with the only option of suing the fake accounts hoping it would lead to the unmasking of the people behind the trolling.
Online review legitimacy is a growing problem partly because it gives voice to those who have no ‘skin in the game.’ Tom Hollenbeck of TruWeb Verified said their goal was not only to vet legitimate reviews but give voice to people who help explain what worked best about the consumer experience.
Not all online review companies are playing fair. One site that draws anger across the web is Ripoff Report. The founder operates from an undisclosed location because of the animosity from business owners suffering at the hands of non-policed bulletin boards filled with unverified comments. Satisfied customers are no match for thousands of anonymous voices.
According to Hollenbeck of TruWeb Verified: “We tell business owners to work as hard on getting their satisfied client testimonials out there as they do all other aspects of the business. If you have ten people who will post a positive, truthful experience, get that front and center. We will help them do that. And for customers using our search engine, they simply won’t find reviews there unless they have been verified.”