Cornell software can spot fake reviews 90% of the time

By on July 27, 2011, 5:58 PM

The advent of ecommerce has made it incredibly easy for people to share their experiences with fellow consumers. Most e-tailers outfit their product pages with a section for customer reviews, while there are entire sites dedicated to sharing consumer feedback. Unfortunately, that also means it's easier than ever for dishonest companies to mislead their customers by polluting the Web with bogus write-ups -- be that rave reviews about their own offerings or negative feedback about their competition's.

Although you've undoubtedly spotted some phony reviews in the past, they aren't always blatantly obvious. In fact, you've probably been duped more frequently than you think. According to a Cornell University study (PDF), the average person can only detect fake reviews about half of the time. The research suggests that the average person fall into one of two groups: you're either incredibly gullible and believe too many of the fake reviews, or you're overly skeptical and reject too many legitimate ones.

Hoping to improve that rate, the researchers combined 400 real with 400 fake reviews and designed software to recognize linguistic nuances commonly found across each category. For instance, it was discovered that honest writers used more punctuation, while deceptive writers used more verbs. Programmed with such knowledge, the software can reportedly sniff out false reviews roughly 90% of the time -- a ~40% improvement over humans. Oh, and by the way, the review on the right is the fake one.




User Comments: 9

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Prosercunus said:

You need a keen eye somewhat to spot those sort of reviews, but I could spot the right one right away. Mostly due to the overuse of exclamation marks and capital letters.

Mizzou Mizzou said:

Actually, they both sounded kind of like a commercial to me. Odd that neither made any reference to the quality of food; which is usually a big consideration for a hotel.

pcnthuziast said:

I spot em all the time. Everything from Newegg to Amazon as examples.

Win7Dev said:

That's why I post before I buy. I get real peoples opinions every time, not some bot or paid writer to tell me that its a great product or that some other product is way better.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

It's basicallly the beefing up of the review with '!!!' and CAPS then?

Hmm...I have seen these around and flagged them myself, but it doesn't take a genius boss of a company to work out that writing like a normal calm person can best get trust with your review.

Things will change once it's spread around too much how to spot these reviews.

Guest said:

Actually, they both sounded kind of like a commercial to me. Odd that neither made any reference to the quality of food; which is usually a big consideration for a hotel.

Exactly. Who cares about fake reviews? What is important is useful reviews. Both were useless. They didn't indicate anything in detail about hygiene, quality of facilities, how the staff were helpful, etc etc.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Oh...I sometimes use caps, lol. Seriously, I do. I'll do something along the lines of AWESOME or GREAT if I really really REALLY mean it (see? lol). However, I don't overuse punctuation on reviews. Maybe in forum posts or status updates, but never on reviews.

aj_the_kidd said:

Guest said:

Actually, they both sounded kind of like a commercial to me. Odd that neither made any reference to the quality of food; which is usually a big consideration for a hotel.

Exactly. Who cares about fake reviews? What is important is useful reviews. Both were useless. They didn't indicate anything in detail about hygiene, quality of facilities, how the staff were helpful, etc etc.

Hard to go into that much detail in a such a short review. To me it was fine, there was adequate information to give you an idea of what the hotel was like.

Arris Arris said:

Or the software could be used to "legitimize" fake reviews by correcting the elements that make them easy to spot before they are posted. Probably better money to be made from that.

Any savvy shopper won't buy a product based solely on reviews on or linked to from the etailer anyway. It's often a rough guideline and the bad reviews are usually of more use as an indication of problems or possible concerns rather than the information gleaned from dozens of generic 5 star reviews.

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