Amazon, Walmart, and Others Take Action to Build Back Trust in the Age of AI

Maia Jenkins
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In June 2023, Amazon filed new lawsuits against users generating fake reviews.

A coalition of cross-industry companies – including Amazon – is uniting in an effort to ensure the trustworthiness of reviews online, while Walmart is pledging a commitment to more responsible AI.

Amazon is joining forces with, Expedia Group, Glassdoor, Tripadvisor, and Trustpilot to launch the international Coalition for Trusted Reviews, which will seek to define best practices for detecting fraudulent entries and help protect consumer access to trustworthy information from reviews hosted on the brands’ respective websites. 

A study conducted by Fakespot in 2020 showed that as many as 30.9% of online customer reviews were classified as fraudulent, indicating the urgency of the need to crackdown down on and safeguard against these activities. 

The coalition came to life in October 2022 in San Francisco at the inaugural Fake Reviews Conference. During this meeting, attendees gained insight from specialists in government, academia, and across various industries, who shared common pitfalls associated with fake reviews and touched on possible mitigation strategies. From these discussions, the Coalition for Trusted Reviews was born.

Members of the coalition will work together in key areas such as industry alignment, defining standards for fake reviews, sharing best practices in hosting online reviews, and exchanging information on fraudulent activities by groups that sell fake reviews. 

Amazon Battles Fraudsters

Amazon began sharing reviews on its site in 1995, but fakers have plagued the company for many years since. In June 2023, Amazon filed new lawsuits against users generating fake reviews in the so-called “fake review broker” industry, which solicits shoppers to write fake reviews in exchange for complimentary products, money, or other incentives.

In 2022, the company took legal action against the admins of more than 10,000 Facebook groups they say were responsible for generating fake reviews. The problem lies not only in providing erroneous information, but in unfairly boosting sellers visibility through excessive positive reviews. 

"Customer reviews are an important part of the shopping experience, and the goal of this coalition is to ensure every review reflects customers' actual experiences. Amazon is aggressively fighting fake review brokers to protect our customers and selling partners, but these fraudsters are a global problem, impacting multiple industry sectors. Through greater collaboration and sharing across industries, including information on fraudsters' tactics and how they operate, we can more effectively shut down fraudulent review activity, deter other bad actors from attempting to game our systems, and protect more consumers." – Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon's vice president of worldwide selling partner services.

Last month, Amazon rolled out AI-generated customer review highlights designed, in part, to crack down on these fake reviews. The company also uses both machine learning and human moderators to check reviews are authentic. 

With these latest tech developments, Amazon says it is able to leverage machine learning modules to analyze thousands of data points to detect red flags, including sign-in activity, review history, relations to other accounts, and other signs of suspicious behavior. Amazon also employs expert investigators using leading-edge fraud-detection tools to analyze and stop fake reviews on the site. 

The Coalition For Trusted Reviews
The coalition says its initiatives will focus on:

  • Industry Alignment: Creating industry-wide standards and definitions for identifying fake reviews and other content moderation terms and metrics.
  • Best Practice Sharing: Establishing guidelines for hosting online reviews, sharing updated content moderation methods, and improving fake review detection processes.
  • Information Sharing: Sharing insight into fraudulent practices and other unethical behavior. 
  • Advocacy: Collaborating with academics and policymakers to highlight the value of authentic review content for consumers, while also supporting industry initiatives to prevent the publication of fake reviews.

Coalition members will meet again in Brussels in December at the next Fake Reviews Conference, organized by Amazon.

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In Tech We Trust: Walmart's New Pledge for a Digital Age 

Trust, or the absence of it, forms the core of this new coalition. With rapid advancements in technology, many companies are exploring methods to uphold trust and confidence among their consumers.

This week, Walmart introduced the Responsible AI Pledge, outlining six core commitments: transparency in AI usage, advanced security measures, protecting privacy, mitigating bias, ensuring accountability through human oversight, and maintaining customer-centricity by measuring satisfaction and feedback.

“It comes down to this: While technology and shopping habits evolve, our purpose and values stay the same. The Walmart Responsible AI Pledge is about more than just AI. It is a moment in time for us to speak directly to our customers, members and associates; be transparent and address the concerns they may have with the rapid pace of technological innovation; and reinforce our commitment to using technology in ways that are safe and beneficial to them.” –  Nuala O’Connor, SVP and chief counsel, digital citizenship at Walmart, in a statement.

The issue of trust and ethics in AI is top of mind for many industry leaders today. In a recent League of Leaders meeting, SAS’ VP of data ethics, Reggie Townsend, encouraged retailers and manufacturers to consider and prepare for regulations and law changes around AI and start to enact principles now. 

“At the very top, before you start writing a line of code, [you have] to activate a trustworthy AI environment,” Townsend said. “You've got to start with this some measure of oversight. You’ve got to think about what your operation is going to look like. You've got to make sure you've got adequate performance and risk mitigation in place and you've got to work on building a culture that is ethical by design.” 

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