Oh Facebook. What next?
It seems staff at the beleaguered social networking giant have been caught red-handed posting excessively positive, not-very-honest Amazon reviews of their own product, Facebook Portal.
The weak effort at astroturfing seems to have happened at the end of last year, after the product came out in October as a competitor to devices like Amazon's own Echo Show.
The dodgy reviews were first spotted by New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose:
Speaking of coordinated inauthentic behavior, what are the odds that all these 5-star Facebook Portal reviewers on Amazon just happen to have the same names as Facebook employees? pic.twitter.com/bF7U8Fj5kN
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) January 17, 2019
Of course, this alone would not be proof positive – they could be people with the same name, or even an elaborate setup to make it look as if Facebook were posting fake reviews. But Amazon reviews receive a "verified purchase" label when the product they're reviewing is in their purchase history, and all three of those reviews have it. Most people's Amazon accounts are in their own names, so it seems the staffers got lazy and used their existing logins to buy and review the product instead of going to all the effort of making new ones to cover their tracks.
Further proof came in the form of this admission from Facebook exec Andrew Bosworth, who claims it totally wasn't an order from above to post nice things about Portal:
neither coordinated nor directed from the company. From an internal post at the launch: “We, unequivocally, DO NOT want Facebook employees to engage in leaving reviews for the products that we sell to Amazon.” We will ask them to take down.
— Boz (@boztank) January 17, 2019
Are we really supposed to believe no one at the company even gently suggested it might be good to have some early 5-star Amazon reviews? Is it normal for staff working on a product to buy that product at full retail price on Amazon, then leave a review saying they're "historically not a big Facebook or other social media user" when they literally work at Facebook?
As ever with Big Blue, we are resolutely not convinced. [Business Insider]