Fakespot touted the ability to spot bad sellers and fake reviews on Amazon, using sophisticated software.
Apple; illustration by Stephen Shankland / CNET
Apple pulled the Fakespot review app from its App Store on Friday, after receiving a complaint from Amazon that Fakespot incorrectly detects bad sellers and fake items in your store.
The move culminated a month of exchanges between Apple, Amazon and Fakespot about the app, Fakespot CEO Saoud Khalifah said in an interview. Amazon said in a statement Friday that Fakespot “provides customers with misleading information about our sellers and their products, harms our sellers’ businesses” when it rates products and sellers on a scale separate from Amazon’s own review system. Amazon also said it was unable to verify what fakespot “is or is not doing, today or in the future, so this is a security risk.”
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Khalifah accused Amazon of trying to cover up fraud that occurs on its platform, and said its app is designed to stand out.
“It is a consumer’s right to know when they are reading a false review, if they are getting a fake, if they are getting a fraudulent product that is going to harm them,” he said. “This system is broken.”
The Fakespot iPhone app has been installed about 150,000 times since it was launched a couple of years ago. The company, which has raised more than $ 5 million in funding so far, currently makes no money from its service.
Apple said it was “an intellectual property rights dispute started by Amazon on June 8” and that it tried to work with both companies to resolve the problem. Apple said it also contacted Fakespot again on June 29 before removing the app.
Amazon’s complaints about Fakespot come as the e-commerce company increasingly struggles with businesses and groups requesting reviews on its platform. Amazon prohibits “incentivized“Deeds, in which companies give refunds or free products in exchange for reviews.
In June, when Amazon filed its initial complaint about Fakespot with Apple, Amazon published a blog post about fake reviews on its site. The company said it removed 200 million suspected fake reviews before they could be posted on the pages listed by one of the 1.9 million third-party marketers on its platform. The company uses computer programs to look for suspicious behavior, such as groups of new customer accounts reviewing the same products. Still, fake review groups have appeared on social media, like Facebook, further encouraging the behavior.
Fake reviews can help brands play around with Amazon’s system, which uses positive reviews to promote products in their ratings.
“We have seen a growing trend of bad actors trying to solicit fake reviews outside of Amazon, particularly through social media services,” said an Amazon blog post last month. “Some use social media services on their own; in other cases, they hire a third-party service provider to carry out this activity on their behalf.”
Fakespot says it is “a data analysis company” that uses computer programs to identify whether reviews and the reviewers leaving them are legitimate. The app assesses the quality of the reviewer’s writing, reviewer profile, and other reviewer data for a given product.
“We use artificial intelligence that has been trained to detect patterns,” says the company. in an explanation of your service. “The more data that flows into the system, the better the system will be at detecting forgeries.”
Amazon said it reviewed products that Fakespot rated as unreliable and found they were wrong 80% of the time. Apple’s review guidelines prohibit apps that spread “false information,” as well as apps that access another company’s service without permission.
Fakespot’s Khalifah expressed frustration that Apple removed his app, while allowing Amazon’s app, with the bogus reviews his company finds, to remain active. “It’s hypocrisy,” he said.