Prime Day Is Here. Watch Out For Fake Reviews

by Savannah Sicurella

Amazon’s annual Prime Day sales event has begun with the largest number of discounted items in its history. Over the next two days, customers can snag discounted big-ticket items, Amazon-branded products or any tchotchke they desire.

One thing to keep in mind when shopping during Prime Day: fake product reviews on Amazon and across social media.

Fake reviews often show up when consumers receive payment or discounts from companies looking for positive feedback. They’re sometimes easy to spot — just look for the overly positive or promotional language — but often are sneaky and deceptive.

Online reviews play an integral part in the shopping experience. A review is often the deciding factor in whether a customer splurges on an item. Aside from deceiving customers, fake online reviews can also harm competitive offerings from credible smaller businesses and can jeopardize brand trust.

Amazon has struggled to crack down on fake reviews for years, though it has ramped up operations to detect and prevent them over time. In 2020, Amazon identified more than 200 million fake reviews on its site before they were published.

But they’re sprouting elsewhere. In a blog post from last week, Amazon said it has noticed a trend of customers posting fake reviews to social media sites. On average, social media platforms take five days to remove them after Amazon has identified them.

There’s no surefire way to determine the honest reviews from dishonest ones, but taking each review with a grain of salt is a place to start. Take a close look at the words used in each review: Does the language sound too flowery, too jargony, too similar to other reviews? Examining the user who posted the review can also help. Be wary of generic-sounding names or accounts without profile pictures.

There are tech solutions, too: Web browser extensions such as Fakespot and ReviewMeta both use algorithms to analyze product reviews and determine the most genuine.

It’s just as important not to rely on reviews as the only deciding factor in buying a product. Back up your research with information from other websites unaffiliated with the brand. If you’re going to buy that discounted pasta maker, check out credible consumer reports and the pasta-making blogs.

Editor’s note: Amazon is among NPR’s financial supporters.

Savannah Sicurella is an intern on the NPR Business Desk.

SXSW Film Festival Heads To Amazon

by Andrew Limbong

Amazon Prime Video will be hosting some of the movies that never got screen time at this year’s canceled SXSW Film Festival. Amazon and SXSW announced today that the online film festival will be free to all audiences for 10 days — but you will need an Amazon account. 

According to the statement, the slate of films offered will depend on which filmmakers choose to opt in to the festival. “Filmmakers who choose to participate will receive a screening fee for streaming their film over the 10-day period … SXSW has shared details on the opportunity with 2020 filmmakers, who can opt in starting today.” 

SXSW joins a number of canceled and delayed film festivals going the online route: the Tribeca Film Festival has been posting a short film every day, the Greenwich International Film Festival will be bringing its May festival online, and the Washington, D.C., Environmental Film Festival has posted a number of this year’s movies, along with an archive going back to 1990. And the film distributor Kino Lorber has begun working with independent and art house theaters across the country to “screen” current independent releases, starting with the acclaimed Brazilian movie Bacurau.