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Belkin's Amazon Rep Paying For Fake Online Reviews 369

remove office writes "I recently discovered that Belkin's lead online sales rep, Michael Bayard, has been secretly paying internet users to review his company's products favorably on and other websites like Newegg, whether or not they've ever used the devices. Bayard instructed the people he was paying to 'Write as if you own the product and are using it... Mark any other negative reviews as "not helpful" once you post yours.' Ironically, he was using Amazon's own Mechanical Turk service to hire his fraudsters. Did he honestly think he wouldn't get caught? Are Slashdotters aware of other examples of other such blatant astroturfing on behalf of a large tech company like Belkin?"
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Belkin's Amazon Rep Paying For Fake Online Reviews

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  • Belkin are dodgy (Score:5, Informative)

    by 1s44c ( 552956 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:25PM (#26498017)

    Belkin have a history of dodgy behavior and should be avoided where possible. Their last trick was hijacking something like 1 in every thousand http connections and directing them to an advertising site. []

    This company should be avoided where possible.

  • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:27PM (#26498037) Homepage

    Microsoft gave some nice Ferrari laptops to some bloggers recently. It's easy to figure out to whom: just google favorable Vista reviews. []

  • by TheTurtlesMoves ( 1442727 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:42PM (#26498215)
    I can't believe people would think otherwise. I mean Ebay feedback anyone. The default assumption when you read *anything* on the net (yes, even The wiki) should be that it is BS.
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:45PM (#26498249)

    Some of these products had 50, 5 star reviews.

    I marked as helpful the 1-4 star reviews and marked as unhelpful all the 5 star reviews.

  • Re:Belkin are dodgy (Score:5, Informative)

    by codegen ( 103601 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:51PM (#26498301) Journal

    The post(by ls44c) and the article are describing different incidents. The post is describing an incident from 2003 involving Belkin routers. The article is describing a recent incident involving astro turfing.

    I believe that the point of the post is that the incident in the article is little more than a pattern of behaviour from a company that continues to break trust with users and is stupid enough to get caught.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:53PM (#26498309)

    From a historical perspective, Microsoft invented astroturfing.

  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:58PM (#26498351)

    There are even companies that specialize in this sort of tactic. I can't find it anymore, but I found one around the time that I was doing work for a gaming site. It basically said that it would use Digg to increase a site's exposure. That meant lots of "Diggs" and positive reviews on the site via established accounts.

    I'm not surprised that MS (or anyone else) is doing it - I am, however, surprised how effective it is. I thought that these corporations wouldn't be able to compete with the large masses of users who had contrary experiences. Apparently, getting paid to do something makes up in efficiency and dedication what is missing in numbers.

  • by jridley ( 9305 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:08PM (#26498449)

    After their fiasco a few years ago where they decided that it was acceptable to program their home routers to occasionally redirect web requests to their own page to sell people things, they hit my "certified 100% evil" list.

    There's no getting off that list. I don't care if they start sending me flowers and candy. Nothing they can do will make me consider giving them a dime again. I don't even buy cables from them; last year I ordered a cable online and waited a week for it rather than buy one locally, because the local place only had Belkin cables in that type.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:08PM (#26498451)

    They're on stimulant/focus/alertness promoting drugs like meth, coke, ritalin, provigil, etc. moreso than anabolics. Except for anesthesiologists, they're on opioids like fentanyl. Don't discount anabolic usage among professionals though. It's no accident that lawyers and doctors tend to be in much better shape than the general population.

  • Obvious bias (Score:4, Informative)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:13PM (#26498485)

    Not much different than the Linux zealot who hasn't touched a Windows machine since 1997

    Gee, from looking at your chain of posts it seems you have a certain bias yourself. Have you EVER used a Linux system, or are you in fact the very uninformed Hater you dismiss so readily?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:16PM (#26498509)


  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:38PM (#26498713)

    My current employer does this kind of thing alot, we're part of the game industry. In fact, there are entire companies which are devoted to these kinds of services. You setup secret rewards programs for random people to go around and post good things about you. You setup a moderation system where users can rate the sincerity and effectiveness of other people's posts. People end up writing very reasonable and very believable snippets about your product, and the vast majority of the time they are in no way obvious.

    Ultimately the company ends up with a very cheap word of mouth marketing system that can be very effective. You pay out t-shirts and gift certificates and other schwag, and the total cost is a very small part of your multi-million dollar marketing budget. It tends to be quite effective as in many cases the posters are able to effectively blend in with the crowd but still create a positive perspective of your product. I don't know overall how much it helps sales, but it's still being done.

    These days I tend to totally ignore most user rating systems, especially if they're driven by comments. I think I used to be pretty skeptical that this kind of thing was feasible, until I found out that my company has it done.

  • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:45PM (#26498765)
    Wasn't Sony caught several time doing this sort of thing? I also seem to remember one incident with their movie division where they actually just made up reviews under fake names and newspapers .. you know, cut out the middle man. I believe some non-trivial fines were levied when they were caught.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:54PM (#26498863)

    I used to work for a certain computing publisher. Getting reviews on was one of the stated goals of our marketing team, and they did this legitimately by sending the book to interested parties and suggesting it (but not expecting it). I don't think there's any harm in doing this.

    However, I noticed that a certain other very big computing publisher was extremely quick off the mark with its reviews. Literally, a book would be published and a few days later three reviews would already be up on the Amazon page, all positive. Then, over the following months, maybe a few more would be added. But getting that many so quickly was suspicious.

    Now, I can't categorically claim that the reviews were fake, but I'm certainly suggesting it.

    Aside from the fact that people buy based on the reviews, appears to rank books based on reviewer comments when you search, along with the actual sales ranking. So this kind of thing is very important.

  • by Immostlyharmless ( 1311531 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:16PM (#26499075)
    I'm not sure how it is on other sites, but on it allows anyone to review a product, but it will also say right before any review if the reviewer has purchased the item from or not.

    I personally wish there was a way to filter out those who had not purchased the item at newegg. That being said, at least being notified that the person didn't purchase the product from that site alerts you to the fact that the reviewer just may possible be full of crap...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:35PM (#26499245)
    Well I don't know about technology sort of stuff, but I do know that on Amazon Stephanie Meyer's agents paid people to give her books good reviews.. that's why you see so many "I loved this book" or other such one liners. Same goes for a the Borders Exclusive Aretha Franklin CD--which sucked balls-- there were people that were writing almost the exact same review give or take a few words. Sickening. I'm sure that hotels and other online review sites have this sort of corruption as well though.
  • Re:Belkin are dodgy (Score:3, Informative)

    by x_MeRLiN_x ( 935994 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:36PM (#26499259) Homepage

    It's my understanding that a dialogue box appeared during installation of the router software asking if one wanted to purchase a web filtering suite. I know there are people who instinctively click the close button of unfamiliar prompts, but the fact remains that rather than explicitly clicking no, they failed to answer the question. I think the original behaviour was perfectly acceptable and if it were my decision, would only have changed it to prevent further bad press.

    Software that attempts to sell you other products or have you "register" your copy and persists to do so until you instruct otherwise is par for the course these days.

    A router that hijacks a small number of queries for financial gain on the other hand, is a serious breach of trust, much more so than this current controversy. Use of the word 'hijack' in the article headline was rather misleading.

  • by richardbirks ( 898884 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:56PM (#26499435)
    Amongst other things, they got caught with their pants down after they paid a market company to create a fake PSP fan site a couple of years ago: []
  • by topham ( 32406 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:23PM (#26499665) Homepage

    They've made it onto my shit-list. They are specifically a company whos products I will avoid, and will avoid recommending in any instance where there is a reasonable alternative. And, due to their product lines, there are always alternatives.

    If the company has any brains they will prosecute the manager criminally, or fire HIS boss who put him up to it.

  • Re:Belkin are dodgy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @05:18PM (#26500093) Journal

    Yes, that is REALLY annoying, but Belkin are not the only ones who play this game.

    Linksys and Netgear, for instance, had many versions of each of their USB wireless. Many of them share the same. exact. model number, but have COMPLETELY different drivers due to versioning and other VID/PID games. I wish these guys would just append the goddamn number and make it easier for people.

    Oh, and I've found Belkins support site to be slow on occasion as well. Nothing like needing a driver yesterday and watching a 40+ MB file come in at 10 Kbps. :P

  • by Lord_Breetai ( 66113 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:54PM (#26502327)

    For example. []

  • by Erikderzweite ( 1146485 ) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @01:32AM (#26503581)

    I use a belkin home router and it is awful. I have a high-speed internet connection and if I try to download something via wireless it gets blocked and I need to restart the router. Turning firewall off didn't help. Very crappy product...

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian