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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.