Astroturfing on Amazon

By: Penny Barnes

According to Big Commerce, “astroturfing has been attempted by online businesses who present a product as being highly desired and sought out by a certain customer base via company-sponsored message board posts, blogs or articles when there is no evidence to support such an assertion.” This term plays onto the term “grass roots movement” since the information being provided is fake, they named it “astroturfing.” There have been cases that companies will leave false reviews on a product to endorse their own product and support it by leaving a positive review. As a consumer, this is an unethical of the company to engage in “astroturfing.”

Frequent customers of Amazon have reported that they often receive packages that they did not order. The Amazon package scam is called, “brushing” and the scheme involves some privacy risks and the danger is present. A recent article written by Theo Thimou in 2019 was published on Clark.com to raise awareness of this Amazon scam. The article provides information discussing how this even happens to consumers, and why. This scam means that your name, shipping address and possible phone number has been compromised. It all started in Massachusetts, when a couple received an unwanted phone charging hand warmer. CBS News reported this incident and quoted Kelly explaining what happened to her and her husband, “I went out and picked up the package and Mike’s name was on it. I opened it up and I said, ‘What did you buy this stuff for?’ And he said, ‘I didn’t buy that!'” Kelly told CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan. It was also reported that there was “no return address for this product,” so the couple took to the media to express their concerns when Michael said, “It indicates that information that’s very close to us, about us is out there circulating around the world.” 

But, what is really going on when you receive these unwanted and unordered packages? This allows the seller to pose as a verified purchase to that they can use the review system to review their own product. When a product receives positive reviews, it pushes it up higher on the Amazon search list. 

As a consumer of Amazon, it makes it hard to believe what is accurate and what is false information. Astroturfing is extremely unethical and loses trust between the consumer and a company like Amazon. Especially with third party sellers, it will be hard to identify which reviews are true, and which are posed comments.

This Article Has 2 Comments
  1. Hayley Williamson says:

    I agree that it is very hard to decide what is true and what is untrue information when it comes to reviews. When buying things online, I have noticed that I am more likely to buy something if some of the reviews include photos of the item. Not only so I can get a better idea of what it looks like in real life, but so that I know their review in honest. Fake reviews, especially from a company, are a big violation of consumer trust. Wouldn’t you think it would be better to just make quality products that receive genuine, positive feedback on their own?

  2. Klaire Olson says:

    Hi! I really enjoyed your post because prior to our lecture on Astroturfing I was not aware of how common it was, especially on such distinguished websites like Amazon. Especially moving forward I can only imagine that the problem is going to get worse. People who use this tactic will make it hard to ever earn the trust of consumers again, especially if it keeps growing and begins to be widely recognized. From now on I will pay more attention to the authenticity of reviews on websites.
    The problem referred to as ” brushing” is something else I have never heard of before. This is very alarming and incredibly unsettling because people do not like to feel vulnerable or exposed, especially with your address, phone number, and name being exploited there is a clear invasion of privacy. Getting a spatula or a blender in the mail might not seem too harmful but what happens when they start shipping more alarming products? This seems similar to when telemarketers started selling your phone number to scammers years ago, while that is a nuisance, it is not as frightening as things coming to your personal home.

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