The Trolls have been out in full force recently, and we aren’t referring to the movie which capitalizes on nostalgia from my childhood. No, we’re talking about the Amazon Review Trolls. They come in all shapes and sizes: funny, sarcastic, sad, shocking. You name it. But now product reviews are the newest outlet for political statements, activist messages, and conspiracy theories.
Amazon Review Trolls Go Political
Let’s start with the review trolls who made headlines this month. This time they’re after Ivanka Trump’s footwear brand. According to an NBC article, reviewers took to Amazon to make their thoughts known about the President Elect’s daughter. The reviews were at once scathing and sarcastic:
“These boots were perfect for wiping my feet on the Constitution and trampling the civil liberties and basic human rights of my fellow Americans, […] The spike heel is ideal for grinding democracy into the ground, or simply kicking the downtrodden as you stride past.” – Amazon Reviewer Susan Harper
Yet on the line of boots in question, just 5 days after the story broke, we are unable to locate any of those reviews on the Amazon product page. Amazon Fake Review Grade: A+
Another instance of the review trolls on parade comes from the other side of the political spectrum. When Megyn Kelly released her new book, Settle for More, a Reddit board called The_Donald put out a public call for reviews. “Keep it funny, witty, smart and…brutal!”, it said, and the 1 star reviews spiked.
“Confused as a feminist, lacking as a ‘journalist.’ Now she can add ‘failed as an author,'” Amazon Reviewer One Woman’s Opinion
But at this time, no such reviews can be found on the book’s Amazon page. Amazon Fake Review Grade: A+
A Forum for Activists
Political trolls aren’t the only ones taking to Amazon. As reported by the Seattle Times, activists are using the platform, too. Take the Amazon-only launch of PepsiCo in 2014. Activists were concerned Pepsi was not using responsibly sourced palm oil in its new Pepsi True product.
“How can ANYONE trust a company that continues to support rainforest destruction by buying unsustainable palm oil. It’s time for Pepsi to truly lead the way and commit to only buying palm oil from 100% sustainable sources — now.” – Amazon Reviewer Samantha Burton
After the call to action on Facebook, there were over 1,500 reviews averaging 1 star. Today? The product is no longer for sale, but there are 371 reviews and just a handful mentioning the palm oil controversy. Amazon Fake Review Grade: A-
Conspiracy Theories & Taking it Too Far
Then there are the trolls who take things one step too far. One such case is for the book Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness, written by the mother of a Sandy Hook victim to describe her journey after the massacre of 20 people in Newtown, Connecticut.
There has been a slow movement of Sandy Hook “Hoaxers” who claim the entire event was falsified to strengthen the gun control cause. After one YouTube video called for viewers to “hit this woman as hard as we can”, over 170 1-star reviews appeared on the product page.
“Sadly this woman and her book are not as they may seem. The Sandy Hook shooting was a staged event in order to further gun control and mental health strategies and general control over the population.” Review by Amazon Customer
It seems most of the fake 1-star reviews have been removed, but we were still able to find several that mentioned the Sandy Hook Hoax, including one that is the “featured” critical review. For this reason we give it the Amazon Fake Review Grade: F
The Power of the Amazon Review Platform
What is the common ground in each of these scenarios? The power of product reviews. Amazon review trolls, including activists and the politically opinionated, understand the power they have as a medium for getting a message out. With Amazon being one of the most visited websites on the planet, one review could get read thousands of times.
While the Amazon “fake review” controversy is not fixed, it has gotten much better. Since 2015, they have sued over 1,000 people for buying or selling fake reviews. And they made a big announcement this year that they will be cracking down on fake reviews even harder.
While Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos claims fake reviews are a minuscule percent of total reviews, we look forward to Amazon reviews becoming totally legit. Because the fact of the matter is, people are reading them. And 90% of them do so when making a purchasing decision. So what’s being said has a huge influence over sales of a product. The goal of Amazon and all ecommerce sites should be to publish accurate reviews to better serve their customers.