How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews – The Washington Post

On Amazon, customer comments can help a product surge in popularity. The online retail giant says that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate because they are written by real shoppers who aren’t paid for them.

But a Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews. Such reviews have certain characteristics, such as repetitive wording that people probably cut and paste in.

Many of these fraudulent reviews originate on Facebook, where sellers seek shoppers on dozens of networks, including Amazon Review Club and Amazon Reviewers Group, to give glowing feedback in exchange for money or other compensation. The practice artificially inflates the ranking of thousands of products, experts say, misleading consumers.

Amazon.com banned paying for reviews a year and a half ago because of research it conducted showing that consumers distrust paid reviews. Every once in a while, including this month, Amazon purges shoppers from its site whom it accuses of breaking its policies.

But the ban, sellers and experts say, merely pushed an activity that used to take place openly into dispersed and harder-to-track online communities.

It’s tough, with some items, to separate out the fake reviews from the real ones. Amazon does indicate which reviews are for purchases – you can post reviews even if you haven’t purchased an item from Amazon, at least for some product categories – but the way the review-for-sale system works is the sellers “sell” the item for free, or for a nominal fee (such as 1 cent).

I know about this, because I have long posted reviews on Amazon, and am a Vine Voice on Amazon.com, and a top-1000 reviewer on Amazon UK. For a while, I would allow companies to contact me to request reviews, and I did review a handful of products like this, but I stopped, because most of them were crap. I reviewed some electronic product once and gave it one star, and the vendor got really angry at me because they had sent me the item, and expected a five-star review.

I no longer accept unsolicited items, but still write review of things I buy; mostly books, music, and DVDs, but also some other items, if I have an urge to write something when Amazon emails me.

As the article points out, there are certain product categories where this is more of a problem. No-name Bluetooth headphones, diet supplements, even Apple Watch bands; these are the areas where cheap Chinese brands try to game the system. For more expensive products, you can generally trust reviewers, at least if the product is a verified purchase. I look at reviews for audio equipment, camera accessories, and even books, and find them to be, for the most part, honest.

But the system is flawed. You can generally trust those well-rated reviewers, but a former number one reviewer on Amazon.com, who reviewed thousands of books, turned out to have been a fraud, so you never know.

Source: How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews – The Washington Post

Audiobooks on Vinyl?

From Billboard:

The resurgence of vinyl continues, as Hachette Audio, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, and Wax Audio Group has announced a new series of vinyl + digital audiobook titles in 2018. The range will include releases read by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jerry Garcia, Amanda Palmer and Steve Jones, among others. The series launches with David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water, which is available today (Feb. 27).

WTF? Seriously, why would anyone do this? No one is going to listen to an audiobook on vinyl. This is just capitalizing on the lets-buy-vinyl-so-we-can-flog-it-on-eBay-in-a-few-years boom.

Among such creative executions of Hachette and Wax’s audiobook-on-vinyl titles: Wallace’s This Is Water is available in two limited collector’s editions — 1,500 copies will feature a blue-and-white water-inspired design for online orders, while independent bookstores and music stores will get 500 copies on orange colored vinyl.

“Creative executions…” Pfft.

Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News But The Tech Companies? – BuzzFeed

“Among those who pay close attention to big technology platforms and misinformation, the frustration over the platforms’ repeated failures to do something that any remotely savvy news consumer can do with minimal effort is palpable: Despite countless articles, emails with links to violating content, and viral tweets, nothing changes. The tactics of YouTube shock jocks and Facebook conspiracy theorists hardly differ from those of their analog predecessors; crisis actor posts and videos have, for example, been a staple of peddled misinformation for years.

This isn’t some new phenomenon. Still, the platforms are proving themselves incompetent when it comes to addressing them — over and over and over again. In many cases, they appear to be surprised by that such content sits on their websites. And even their public relations responses seem to suggest they’ve been caught off guard with no plan in place for messaging when they slip up.”

All of this raises a mind-bendingly simple question that YouTube, Google, Twitter, and Facebook have not yet answered: How is it that the average untrained human can do something that multibillion-dollar technology companies that pride themselves on innovation cannot? And beyond that, why is it that — after multiple national tragedies politicized by malicious hoaxes and misinformation — such a question even needs to be asked?

Because they wan’t to use algorithms; they don’t want to have to pay humans.

Source: Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News But The Tech Companies?

‘The Twilight Zone,’ from A to Z – The New York Review of Books

The [Twilight Zone’s] articulate underlying philosophy was never that life is topsy-turvy, things are horribly wrong, and misrule will carry the day—it is instead a belief in a cosmic order, of social justice and a benevolent irony that, in the end, will wake you from your slumber and deliver you unto the truth.

[…]

The show’s most prevalent themes are probably best distilled as “you are not what you took yourself to be,” “you are not where you thought you were,” and “beneath the façade of mundane American society lurks a cavalcade of monsters, clones, and robots.”

This review of a new book, The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) highlights all the things that made the series not only great in its time, but also an enduring television classic. It’s hard to imagine a series that was more influential on the American psyche at such a time of turbulence. The fact that it still has resonance is testimony to its unique vision.

I wish the series was more affordable in digital format. I bought the first season on the iTunes Store some time ago when it was $10, but each season is $35, which is excessive. I have the entire thing on DVD, and I just don’t have the time to rip them. You can get the whole set on Blu-Ray for only $70. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Source: ‘The Twilight Zone,’ from A to Z | by J.W. McCormack | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books