Fighting fraud with fractions: New algorithm weeds out fake product reviews automatically

michelle bachmann fraudulent amazon product review

How often do you check the comments and number of stars a product has received prior to purchasing a service or product?

If you’re like most of us, the answer is nearly always. On the Web, positive or negative product reviews will often be the deal breaker — or maker — for potential customers. Which also makes faking them big business. To combat the growing market for fraudulent user reviews, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago with the backing of Google have developed an algorithm, dubbed GSRank, for weeding out fraudulent reviews.

Novice fraudulent reviews are easy to catch — reviewers will create a new account specifically to vilify or praise a single product. More complex operations use multiple accounts working in tandem to review multiple products. Yet this collaborative effort is what allows the algorithm to identify the fraudulent reviewers.

Looking at groups of reviews turns out to be the key. When a competitor intends to slander a rival, it’s likely that the fraudulent reviews will come from a group of multiple accounts, called “spammer groups.” The same grouping patterns appear in fraudulent “good” reviews meant to bolster the profile and desirability of a company’s own product.

Drilling down further, the researchers found eight signals for false reviews, which serve as the foundation for the algorithm that ultimately flags the fraudulent reviews. They are:

1. Group Time Window – A spam group will tend to publish its reviews within a short window of time.

2. Group Deviation – Reviews that deviate significantly from the others on a product may have a higher probability of being fake. 

3. Group Content Similarity – Whether you’d call it lazy or not, spammers will copy reviews from within their own spam group. After all, there isn’t much money to be made in a single review, and spending time on a single review is money that could have been made elsewhere.

4. Group Member Content Similarity – Like Group Content Similarity, a single reviewer may save time by reusing, with slight edits, a review for a similar product.

5. Group Early Time Frame – The earliest reviews will tend to have the biggest effect on swaying the decisions of potential customers. Accordingly, companies are inclined to hire spammers early in the product’s existence, so fraudulent reviews will typically be among the first to review the product or service.

6. Group Size Ratio – The size of a spam group with respect to the total number of reviewers will also be a sign of spammers.

7. Group Size – The larger the spam group’s size, the more damaging the reviews will be. The chances that the reviews will be submitted at the same time will also be slimmer. Larger spam groups are more inclined to intentionally time the review’s post, or if reviewers in spam groups have been selected individually, a post will be unlikely to be published at the same time.

8. Group Support Count – A group of potentially fraudulent accounts is far more likely to have reviewed the same products than a group of genuine accounts.

So far, the research, mining and manual detection of false reviews has been a laborious and expensive process. With the introduction of the researcher’s GSRank algorithm, the process can be mostly automated. Companies trying to work the system now have a formidable hurdle.


We tried a pair of foam snowshoes, and now we're hooked

Crescent Moon surprised everyone when it released an all foam snowshoe last year, and now it’s back with a new and improved version -- which we've been testing for the past few weeks. Is it the most brilliant idea ever or the absolute…
Product Review

Honor schools other phone makers on design with the hole-punch View 20

The Honor View 20 is Honor’s best phone to date. Why? Just look at the punch hole screen, the striking design, and the exciting 48-megapixel camera for evidence. Here’s our review.

Overkill’s ‘The Walking Dead’ delayed indefinitely for PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Overkill's The Walking Dead for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been postponed without a new release date. The co-op zombie shooter suffered massive delays, then received lukewarm reviews once it launched for the PC through Steam.
Smart Home

Busted: Facebook Portal gets 5-star reviews from company employees

It's fair to say that Facebook's Portal smart display received a tepid response at launch, so it was something of a surprise to see lots of glowing reviews of the device on Amazon. Turns out some were written by Facebook workers.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.