Author Imy Santiago rcently wrote a blog post about her experiences with Amazon deleting reviews and blocking her from posting more reviews.
She included a screenshot of her conversation with Amazon’s technical support, and I have copied and annotated it below:
The portion that I have outlined in red seems to be upsetting people, and I can feel a certain degree of sympathy. The question that people are asking is, “How are we supposed to follow the rules when Amazon won’t tell us what they are?”
That’s a good question, granted. But Amazon can’t tell you the rules.
The algorithms used to flag and remove suspect reviews are a fraud countermeasure and the first rule of fraud countermeasures is that you don’t talk about fraud countermeasures.
There are two approaches to loss prevention in a business–the first is to make it hard to steal from you and the second is to make it easy to catch people who do.
Type one includes things like putting goods behind the sales counter or on locking shelves. You want those kinds of deterrents to be obvious. In fact, you want to make them look even more formidable than they actually are. The best lock is one that looks so damned impressive that no one bothers to try to pick it.
Type two–catching those who are not deterred by the obvious security measures–has to be more covert. Security companies–the good ones, anyway–that provide exterior sweeps to client businesses work hard to keep those sweeps unpredictable. The best kind of live guard coverage is 24/7. The second best kind is random. A guard who drives by every hour at fifteen minutes past the hour might as well stay home.
Providing paid reviews to sellers on Amazon is a huge business. Amazon is such a large section of the market that manipulating the review system is a full time job for some people.
This costs Amazon money. If the Amazon rankings are seen as unreliable then Amazon loses sales and loses customers. I buy a lot of games for my Kindle and I can tell you that I don’t trust most reviews. I always read the two and three star reviews first, because they are likely to be the most genuine.
That’s for 2-4 dollar purchases. I am very unlikely to buy a big ticket item from Amazon unless I am already familiar with the product. Unreliable reviews are one of the major reasons why.
Looking at it from a loss prevention standpoint, of course Amazon can’t publicize the method by which suspect reviews are flagged. If they did that, then the scammers would simply change their tactics to avoid being flagged automatically.
The word will get out, of course. Last year’s unbreakable system is next year’s unlocked door. Security is a continual race between guns and armor, which is why IT people and locksmiths stay in business.
And when the current algorithms are understood and exploits designed, Amazon will have to change them again. So knowing what got a review flagged today wouldn’t help you much into the future anyway.