More than 2.2 million fake or harmful posts taken offline last year

Coronavirus: Fake news site traffic analysed by expert

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Trustpilot faces an ongoing battle to ensure that the minority of bad actors who set out to mislead consumers are stopped from ruining people’s next buying decision. In its 2021 Transparency Report, the first of its kind, it revealed more than 38.5 million reviews were published on the platform in 2020 – a rate of 100,000-plus per day, around 75 per minute or more than one per second. But clever automated technology, supported by a crack team of trained experts and fraud analysts, have removed 2,209,230 posts over the course of 12 months.

The machine learning tech automatically deleted 1,549,683 and 659,547 were manually taken down by the Content Integrity Team.

Peter Mühlmann, the founder and CEO of Trustpilot said: “The popularity of online reviews has given consumers the confidence to buy more online from more businesses of all shapes and sizes.

“Fake reviews and misinformation are the enemy, and we continue to do all we can to prevent consumers from being misled.

“Trust is in our name, and trust is at the heart of all that we do as a business. If we are to be successful, we have to be more open and transparent in the way that we work.”

The company’s new Transparency Report opens up the workings of its business to demonstrate the scale of the protective, safeguarding measures it deploys as usage of its platform grows. It has been published as a way of highlighting the importance of sharing how it operates with its users.

At the end of 2020, there were 529,219 businesses domains on Trustpilot, with 153,089 reviewed for the first time last year.

Almost 20 million people wrote their first review on the site in 2020, with overall reviews up by 25 percent on the previous year as lockdown forced a greater shift on to online purchasing.

However, with the increase in users, and popularity in reviews in general, also comes new challenges from fraudsters – with Trustpilot developing high-tech fraud detection software to identify and remove fraudulent reviews.

The technology analyses multiple data points, such as IP addresses, user identifiers, device characteristics, location data and timestamps, to determine if it exhibits patterns of suspicious behaviour.

It looks at 100,000 reviews per day, and on top of this both consumers and businesses can flag suspicious reviews.

Whenever the software detects clearly fraudulent reviews, the review is moved offline and an email is sent to a reviewer to check.

The systems learn constantly from hundreds of millions of data points, enabling Trustpilot to use machine learning to constantly improve the accuracy of its automated software.

Thanks to this technology, its fraud protection programme is becoming more precise with every review, enabling the site to combat content or behaviour that undermines the integrity of the platform.

Fake and harmful reviews include businesses reviewing themselves, paid reviews designed to manipulate a rating, a review designed to deliberately undermine a competitor, advertising or promotions disguised as reviews, a review that has harmful or illegal content and reviews not based on genuine experience.

Fraudulent users were almost twice as likely to try and post five-star reviews as a one-star review.

They sent out almost 39,000 warnings to business accounts on the platform last year, which were followed by 1,030 formal cease and desist letters to businesses which continue to engage in misbehaviour.

Ultimately, 122 contracts were terminated for breach of guidelines after being sent a formal notice.

Carolyn Jameson, Chief Trust Officer at Trustpilot, added: “The integrity of reviews and how they’re managed differs greatly across the internet.

“Our open approach provides everyone with the ability to have their say at any time, without waiting to be invited and without interference, giving a more holistic and authentic view of what’s really going on.

“At Trustpilot, we’re surfacing what we do and giving everyone more understanding and greater confidence in the information on our platform. We want people to continue to trust what they see.”

Read Trustpilot’s Transparency Report here.

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