USER REVIEWS WERE once extremely helpful in knowing what to buy. None of the perceived biases of professional reviewers: bite-sized notes telling from people just like you telling you whether a product is good or not.
The trouble is that bite-sized reviews are incredibly easy to fake convincingly, and there's a cottage industry of fake-review writers eagerly gaming algorithms everywhere from Amazon to TripAdvisor. Now Google has had enough and has warned those tempted to astroturf its Android Play Store that a crackdown is imminent.
Quite how effective it can be is another matter entirely. Google boasts that it's "deployed a system that combines human intelligence with machine learning to detect and enforce policy violations in ratings and reviews", but accepts that it's a "big job," highlighting that it detects millions of dodgy reviews and thousands of iffy apps every week.
"Our team can do a lot, but we need your help to keep Google Play a safe and trusted place for apps and games," the blog post reads, before supplying advice for both developers and regular Android users.
Developers are encouraged not to buy fake or incentivised reviews, which feels like a sensible place to start if you're trying to reduce the number of fake or incentivised reviews. More usefully, developers are told not to run campaigns where five-star reviews are rewarded by in-game items or currency.
But it isn't just developers who get to enjoy the fun of outsourced quality control. Users are also invited to join the party by not accepting money or goods in exchange for ratings and taking valuable minutes away from their precious time on Earth to read the comment-posting policy. "It's pretty concise and talks about all the things you should consider when posting a review to the public," the post pleads, making it sound only marginally more appealing.
Users are also encouraged to keep feedback constructive and to avoid profanity, hateful or sexual reviews. This raises the question of how many people have been leaving sexual reviews, but perhaps that's best left unanswered.
Finally, everyone can help by sending feedback of iffy-looking reviews or flagging them as spam.
Somewhat ironically, Google has given readers the chance to rate the blog post out of five. Reader, we did our bit:
Happy to help. µ
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