Belkin Cops To Faked Product Reviews

If you read user reviews of a particular Belkin router at recently, chances are it could have been a fake review that was written for money.
If you read user reviews of a particular Belkin router at recently, chances are it could have been a fake review that was written for money.This is where the Internet goes bad. Some Belkin employee actually advertised in hopes of finding real-world people to write fake product reviews for money. The advertisement asked for the highest possible review (five stars) and plenty of good comments about the router. The ad also suggested that the fake reviewers mark legit reviews as "unhelpful".

The Belkin employee in question, Michael Bayard, was a business development representative. Mr. Bayard asked reviewers to write reviews even if they didn't own the product, and to make up a narrative about why they bought it and how it was performing. Obviously, this is pretty bad business.

The bad publicity machine reared its head over the weekend as tech blogs all over started reporting on the matter. Good thing for Belkin, management was paying attention and started the spin control machine quickly. Here is a letter from Belkin's president:

Belkin has always held itself to the highest standards of corporate ethics and its employees to the highest standards of personal integrity. Similarly, we support our online user community in discussion and reviews of our products, whether the commentary is good or bad. So, it was with great surprise and dismay when we discovered that one of our employees may have posted a number of queries on the Amazon Mechanical Turk website inviting users to post positive reviews of Belkin products in exchange for payment.

Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this. We know that people look to online user reviews for unbiased opinions from fellow users and instances like this challenge the implicit trust that is placed in this interaction. We regard our responsibility to our user community as sacred, and we are extremely sorry that this happened.

We want to stress that this is an isolated incident and to re-instill trust with you, we have taken the following courses of action:

-- We've acted swiftly to remove all associated postings from the Mechanical Turk system. -- We're working closely with our online channel partners to ensure that any reviews that may have been placed due to these postings have been removed.

It's also important to recognize that our retail partners had no knowledge of, or participation in, these postings.

Once again, we apologize for this occurrence, and we will work earnestly to regain the trust we have lost.


Mark Reynoso President, Belkin

Mr. Bayard wasn't offering all that much money, just $0.65 per positive review. Still, the breach of trust is a serious one, despite the paltry amount of money involved.

The entire episode is a reminder that user reviews of any product need to be taken with a grain of salt. There are honest reviewers, and there are dishonest reviewers. Some people rate things they don't own, have never used, or don't ever plan to purchase. Sorting them out from the legit reviews can be a chore.

User reviews have their place, for sure. It is one thing for a known journalist to professionally review a product, but another for several dozen real-world users to contribute their thoughts. Quite often, I place more weight behind user reviews than a professional reviewer's because the real-world users have nothing to gain or lose by writing a positive or negative review.

Well, they did until Mr. Bayard enticed them with a whopping 65 cents, anyway.