Google has announced that it has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against the alleged mastermind of a malicious review scheme. Google accused Ethan QiQi Hu of creating fake business profiles on Google services to sell.
The lawsuit states that Mr Hu created fake online listings for businesses that don’t exist and bolstered them with fake reviews. The listing and inquiries from confused consumers would then be sold to individuals and entities looking to promote their businesses on Google’s platforms.
Google also said that the small businesses that purchase Hu’s services were also deceived because he made unsubstantiated and impossible claims about guaranteeing a favourable position in Google’s search results.
According to the search giant, customers trust Google to supply reliable information, such as company reviews. It said that if fake reviews proliferate on its services, then consumers will lose more money. Google mentioned that the FTC cited a survey which shows consumers already lost $125 per year due to inaccurate reviews.
Google said that it’s working with the FTC and other global regulators by sharing its insights in an effort to tackle fake reviews and other deceptive endorsements. Renny Hwang, Google’s Head of Litigation, said “We’ll continue to prioritize trust and safety for both businesses and consumers through proactive litigation and investing in technology to ensure information across our platforms is reliable.”
Fighting fake reviews is an ongoing battle for Google. In 2022 alone it protected 185,000 businesses from further abuse after it detected suspicious activity. It also prevented the creation of 20 million fake business profiles during the year and continued to invest in technologies to keep information legitimate.
Let us know in the comments if you rely heavily on other people’s reviews on websites when making purchase decisions.