Fake reviews prompt Belkin apology

Fake reviews prompt Belkin apology

Summary: The networking equipment maker says sorry after an employee offers to pay for good Amazon reviews.

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Fake positive reviews of Belkin products were actively solicited by one of its employees, the company admitted on Sunday.

Belkin, a networking and peripheral manufacturer, apologized for the worker's actions, which sought to artificially boost Belkin's status on Amazon while denigrating existing bad reviews.

On Friday, The Daily Background website revealed how someone, apparently Belkin business-development representative Mark Bayard, had used the Mechanical Turk service to ask users to write positive reviews of a Belkin product at a rate of 65 US cents (45p) per review. The requests made it clear that writers need have no experience of, nor even own, the product in question. Mechanical Turk is an online clearing-house for small jobs that cannot be done by machine, such as writing product descriptions. It is, coincidentally, run by Amazon.

In a letter posted on the company's website on Sunday, Belkin president Mark Reynoso said the solicitations had been "an isolated incident".

"It was with great surprise and dismay when we discovered that one of our employees may have posted a number of queries on the Amazon Mechanical Turk website inviting users to post positive reviews of Belkin products in exchange for payment," Reynoso wrote.

"Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this. We know that people look to online user reviews for unbiased opinions from fellow users and instances like this challenge the implicit trust that is placed in this interaction. We regard our responsibility to our user community as sacred, and we are extremely sorry that this happened."

Reynoso said Belkin had "acted swiftly" to remove all the review requests from the Mechanical Turk system, and was "working closely with our online channel partners to ensure that any reviews that may have been placed due to these postings have been removed".

"It's also important to recognize that our retail partners had no knowledge of, or participation in, these postings," Reynoso wrote. "Once again, we apologies for this occurrence, and we will work earnestly to regain the trust we have lost." According to The Daily Background, the product for which the positive reviews were requested was Belkin's wireless F5U301 USB2.0 hub and dongle, listed on Amazon.com. On Monday, the listing for that product on Amazon.com showed a rating of one-and-a-half stars out of five.

Topics: Software Development, Amazon, Browser, Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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Talkback

7 comments
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  • Doesn't support unethical practices

    So this is bad, but rewriting a users HTTP stream with an advertisement on random streams is ethical?
    rpmyers1
  • RE: Fake reviews prompt Belkin apology

    OOPS! Someone just got caught and I'm not speaking about the requestor.
    eorussell@...
  • It also allows the question to be asked

    could some of the "poor" reviews have been posted by a competitor?
    GuidingLight
  • N1 Vision

    I'm pretty happy with that N1 Vision. I had to upgrade the firmware, but now I can do VPN from home with it, and I love the simple visual speedometer display.
    DonRupertBitByte
  • tell me something I don't know

    Belkin got cought, but plenty of vendors use their own employees with fake accounts providing 'objective reviews' to hype theirs and bad mouth the competition.
    Also balot stuffing on review sites are quite common and also extend to other domains like music and movies.
    Linux Geek
  • Where did the $ come from?

    So, where did the Mechanical Turk payments come from? Surely this one errant Belkin evangelist didn't pay out of his own pocket. I smell more than one rat in this little debacle.
    Reply_account
  • Sounds like Belkin has their fall guy!

    Sounds like Belkin has found a fall guy!
    rmorris@...