Ossian Law P.C. IT Law Alert October 15, 2013
“Astroturfing” Leads to $350,000 in Fines
Do you or your organization rely on online reviews before making purchasing decisions? Are online reviews important to your business? If so, you should be aware of the practice of “astroturfing” and its legal ramifications.
Astroturfing refers to the proliferation of fake reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google Local and Citysearch. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls astroturfing “the 21st century’s version of false advertising.” Schneiderman’s office recently completed “Operation Clean Turf,” an investigation culminating in nineteen companies agreeing to pay over $350,000 in penalties for violation of state laws.
Among the practices uncovered through the investigation were companies advertising for Yelp “experts” with profiles that would get around Yelp’s filters and flagging protocols. Some businesses offered to pay up to $10 per fake review. Some of the companies investigated offered search engine optimization or reputation management services that included bogus reviews. In addition to the fines, the companies agreed to stop engaging in the unlawful practice.
As a business consumer relying on online reviews, understand that some reviews may not be legitimate. If you are looking to enhance your business’ online reputation, make sure that you (or the company you hire) do not engage in astroturfing or other deceptive advertising practices.
Read the New York Attorney General’s press release here.
Contact us at Ossian Law P.C. regarding social media law or any other information technology law question.