FTC announces proposed new rules to ban fake reviews

What part of the current pre-purchase research customers do is currently a cesspool? if you said affiliate marketing, then sadly, you are wrong - it is customer reviews. Whether it’s Yelp reviews, Google reviews, or product reviews on Amazon - customers have gotten used to being unable to trust reviews due to illicit reviews from bad actors on platforms.

The Federal Trade Commission has announced proposed rules banning fake reviews and testimonials.

The proposed new rule would prohibit:

  1. Review hijacking - when companies or brands use or repurpose reviews written for one product being used for a totally different product.
  2. Buying positive or negative reviews - brands and companies cannot provide incentives or compensation for reviews on third-party platforms.
  3. Selling or obtaining fake reviews or testimonials - brands and companies would be prohibited from writing or selling reviews written by people who don’t exist, have not experienced an event or product, or misrepresent their experience.
  4. Insider reviews and testimonials - staff members or managers of brands and companies will not be allowed to write reviews on their products unless they disclose their relationships. This will also prohibit reviews and testimonials written by friends and family members of those who work at brands and companies.
  5. Selling social media indicators - companies and individuals will not be allowed to buy or sell social media indicators such as fake followers and views. This prohibits the misrepresentation of the importance of these commercial indicators.
  6. Company-controlled review websites - brands and companies will no longer be allowed to create or control a website that claims to offer independent opinions on a category or products that contains its products or services. Does anyone remember those mattress review websites which offered “independent” reviews on mattresses?
  7. Illegal review suppression - brands and companies will be prohibited from using unjustified legal action, threats, or false accusations that would prevent the removal of negative reviews. This will also ban the misrepresentation of total reviews being visible when certain reviews are suppressed.

While this sounds positive, lacking civil penalty authority will likely make this FTC proposal a toothless tiger. The bigger question is how this is policed, especially in light of generative artificial intelligence’s adoption.


There is a related, bigger problem. Scammers using the images (and now AI generated voice, video) of famous people to “sell” scams online.

In the UK, Martin Lewis (a financial consumer champion, moneysavingexpert.co.uk) has managed to take facebook to court for facilitating this crime with their advertising system (with no practical ability for takedown) and won £3m (dontated to charity). That was for static images

But he has been on the radio again this morning highlighting the next generation of this crime (Ai generated audio/video), and complaining about the slowness of UK government legislation for addressing this (it’s partially covered by the proposed Online Safety bill but that’s still in process, slowly, with consultations only now just starting for additional legislation)

I was surprised Fakespot got acquired by Mozilla. Maybe their technology wasn’t very good?