Last weekend Engadget spotted Belkin Business Development Representative Michael Bayard was hiring people on Mechanical Turk to write fake reviews of their products on Amazon:
Back in our day, if you weren't busy walking up uphill both ways, you'd write your own dang fake reviews on Amazon, but apparently Belkin's Michael Bayard -- or a clever impostor looking to smear the man's good name -- decided it'd be easier and totally non-obvious to hire people on Mechanical Turk to do it for him. For a whopping $0.65 you can write a 5 out of 5 review of a Belkin product, and downrank negative reviews while you're at it.
Mark Reynoso, Belkin's President, published the following public letter on Belkin's site to apologise:
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.