So Amazon is suing over a thousand reviewers on the grounds that its reputation is being damaged by false, misleading and inauthentic reviews paid for by sellers seeking to improve the appeal of their products.
Now, there may be clear business issues for Amazon. After all, it has declared that it forbids fictional and paid-for reviews.
And some are saying that online opinion is something we all seek and if people don’t think they can trust it, then the value of it is lost.
But hang on a minute. Isn’t opinion online just like opinion everywhere else? Good, bad and downright ugly? It’s always been hard to know who to believe. Of course sellers are going to talk positively about their products – even in the guise of ‘independent’ reviews. Manipulated ‘opinion’ isn’t new (how many times have poor reviews of plays or films been ‘edited’ to pull out a positive quotation), but it is harder to spot online because somehow we have come to believe in the purity of the online experience at a certain level.
The quantity, accessibility and immediacy of online opinion suggests a quality that isn’t really there. Opinion has become magnified and we worship it. But as anyone knows, the online space is as much inhabited by the idiotic as the insightful. What next, checking reviewers’ exam certificates? And how much has that ever been a guarantee that anyone knows what they’re talking about?
Ultimately, it is up to individuals themselves to interpret what opinions to believe. And that means putting some work in and getting a broad range of views, from different sources – online and off. Online just makes you lazy by giving you the feeling you can trust a couple of reviews at the top of the page on one site.
At least that’s my opinion.