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Facebook and eBay to tackle fake online shopping reviews after regulator probe

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
A Facebook Inc. logo is pictured on a desktop computer's display, Milan on March 29, 2018. Facebook Inc.s co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has been called to appear before a House panel as fallout continues from revelations that Cambridge Analytica had siphoned data from some 50 million Facebook users as it built a election-consulting company that boasted it could sway voters in contests all over the world. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Both Facebook and eBay have signed up to agreements that will see them tackle fake and misleading online shopping reviews. Photo: Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook (FB) and eBay (EBAY) have signed up to agreements that will see them tackle fake and misleading online shopping reviews, the UK’s competition regulator said on Wednesday.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that, after it raised concerns about the trade of such reviews, Facebook has removed 188 groups and 24 users from its platform, while eBay has permanently banned 140 users.

And both companies have agreed to introduce measures that will help prevent this type of content from appearing in the future, the CMA said.

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Facebook will introduce “more robust” systems in order to detect and remove fake and misleading reviews, while eBay has improved its filters so that it can better spot and block listings for the sale or trade of online reviews.

Facebook will also investigate newly discovered examples of fake and misleading reviews being sold on Instagram, its photo-sharing platform, the CMA said.

The CMA said it would be “seeking a commitment from Facebook to take action to tackle these further issues.”

“Fake reviews are really damaging to shoppers and businesses alike,” said Andrea Coscelli, the CEO of the CMA.

“Millions of people base their shopping decisions on reviews, and if these are misleading or untrue, then shoppers could end up being misled into buying something that isn’t right for them — leaving businesses who play by the rules missing out.”

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Coscelli said the CMA was “pleased” that both Facebook and eBay were “doing the right thing by committing to tackle this problem”.

The CMA said that recent probes of fake and online reviews were part of a “wider programme” designed to tackle the issue, and said that it will also be examining the role of review sites, specifically.

Noting that both Facebook and eBay had “fully co-operated” with its probe, the CMA said it was not alleging that either Facebook or eBay were “intentionally” allowing this type of content to appear on their platforms.

In a statement, an eBay spokesperson welcomed Wednesday’s report from the CMA and said that it maintained a “zero tolerance” for fake or misleading reviews.

A Facebook spokesperson said that, while the social media platform had “invested heavily” to prevent this kind of activity, it knew that there was “more work to do”.

They said that Facebook was “exploring the use of automated technology to help us detect and remove this content quickly, before people see it and report it to us”.