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Business Cyberbullying and Business Defamation: Stopping Fake Reviews

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Cybertrace Team

February 24, 2023 · 5 min read

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Customer reviews play a crucial role in consumer decisions about products and services. Whether checking a restaurant’s rating or buyers’ descriptions of a new product – online reviews are fundamental to today’s purchasing decisions. Many businesses rely on internet traffic to drive sales, so having positive customer reviews is vital. While appropriately responding to negative comments online is an artform, what if your business is the victim of fake reviews? Whether they’re from a disgruntled former employee, a dodgy contractor or an underhanded competitor, fake reviews can be devastating. In fact, they’re known as business cyberbullying or business defamation, a serious problem that can ruin reputations, incomes and lives. But how much do online reviews matter? Why are fake reviews bad, even when they might be positive? And, most importantly, how do you protect your business from fake reviews, business cyberbullying and business defamation? Let’s look at each of these topics.

Online Reviews and the Reputation Economy

With reputation accounting for more than one third of sales, businesses cannot ignore the importance of the reputation economy. In pre-internet days, we might have relied on the select few experiences of trusted family members and friends. Today, mass online reviews have been game-changers, with hundreds and thousands of star ratings and qualitative descriptions at our fingertips. The idea behind online reviews is that customers offer their honest independent opinions and experiences of a product or service. In theory, this helps consumers make better-informed decisions by being able to draw on the wisdom of the crowd. According to research, more than three out of four people significantly rely on online reviews when making purchases. Reviews can appear on a business’s own website, on social media or on dedicated ratings platforms. Unfortunately, they can easily include fake reviews and even amount to business cyberbullying or business defamation.

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The Scourge of Fake Reviews

Online reviews and ratings have become indispensable as digital reputation drivers. However, their very openness – anyone can write and submit a review – is also their greatest weakness. Fake reviews strike at the heart of the whole system – trust – and consumers are noticing. According to a recent survey, over 90% of UK consumers are concerned about fake reviews. And they are right: estimates vary but between 40-60% of all reviews are likely fake. While some perpetrators create fake reviews themselves, others are using guns for hire. By one estimate, more than 50,000 fake reviews are created on Facebook every single day. Not all of these are even negative – some businesses swap positive reviews or ask relatives or employees to write them. However they are created, though, fake reviews undermine trust, damage confidence and are actually illegal. At worst, they are part of a concerted campaign of business cyberbullying or business defamation.

Business Cyberbullying and Business Defamation

To be clear, businesses creating misleading or fake reviews, whether themselves or via others, is against the law. However, that doesn’t seem to stop disgruntled ex-employees or ruthless competitors from maligning their former employers or rivals. Hiding behind the internet’s veil of anonymity, these bad actors think they can get away with damaging reputations, collapsing sales and ruining lives. Some even carry out blackmail-via-fake-reviews as recent newspaper reports about fake one-star restaurant reviews attest. Of course, this type of extortion is particularly insidious as it can lead not only to a collapse in sales but a precipitous slide in a business’s Google search rankings. So if you are the victim of malicious actors deliberately targeting your business with fake reviews, what can you do? Luckily, Cybertrace’s team of experts has the experience, capability and track record of successfully conducting cyberbullying investigations. Whether it’s personal or for business, contact us today.

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Spotting Fake Reviews

The first step towards addressing business cyberbullying or business defamation is to check whether the reviews in question are actually fake. While fakes are constantly getting more sophisticated, there are some red flags you can look out for. These include spikes in positive or negative reviews over a short period of time, patterns such as similarities in reviewers’ names, emails or IP addresses, generic reviews written in similar language style and the promotion of alternative products or services within reviews. If the reviews don’t make sense, add up or match your customer records, it’s time to consider who’s behind them. Different review sites have different policies, but the key question is: are reviewers anonymous or linked to particular social media accounts? If the latter, are these accounts genuine or fake? Either way, a business cyberbullying or business defamation investigation can help you take steps to protect your business.

Protect Your Business from Business Cyberbullying and Business Defamation

While there are lots of recommendations about how to appropriately respond to negative comments, advice regarding fake reviews is scarce. Seemingly, the only option is to ask review sites to take them down, a time-consuming game of whack-a-mole. You report fake reviews, the review site assesses and maybe deletes them, and the culprits simply post another one. With sales and profits plummeting, it’s enough to drive you mad! Alternatively, you can of course take legal action against the offenders. But for that to work, you need to know who your lawyers can sue or send cease-and-desist letters to. Anonymous or fake accounts seemingly make that impossible.

Thankfully, Cybertrace’s professional, reliable and discreet business cyberbullying and business defamation investigations can help you identify the culprits. Through our expert social media investigations and website forensics, we can uncover the orchestrators behind fake reviews. This enables you to take back control, either through your lawyers, the police or by confronting the perpetrators yourself. Contact us today to discuss your needs and start turning the tables on crooks, liars and slanderers.

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