Facebook employees caught giving portal 5 star reviews on Amazon

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January 19, 2019
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Another day, another Facebook scandal. The new scandal centers around their recently announced smart display “Portal.”

NYT columnist, Kevin Roose, spotted “inauthentic behavior” on Amazon’s listing of the Facebook portal. He was able to find three five star reviewers as Facebook employees.

All the reviews are verified, so we are sure that these were indeed genuine purchases. There is a very high probability that Facebook might not have encouraged them after all. It is possible that they truly loved the product and thought about sharing their experience. It is also possible that they might have been promoting it simply because they love their company, though that does sound like a stretch.

Why is it wrong?

It is wrong for two main reasons. First, its borderline unethical. Many people look at the average rating and make their purchase decision on that. For many people, it is the last the last check before purchase and such good reviews can change minds. So it’s wrong because it does not reflect the true value of the product. It might not be an issue if these reviews were indeed real and not motivated by Facebook. But then how can you differentiate between them?

That brings in the second reason, Amazon does not allow it. As per Amazon’s policy, employees can not review products from their employer. This just shoots down that question right away. Now, even if Facebook employees were indeed happy with their purchases, they are still in violation of Amazon’s policy.

Facebook’s Response

Facebook’s VP for AR/VR, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, has confirmed that they are indeed Facebook employees. However, he did say that Facebook has not encouraged any of its employees to vote for the product on Amazon. Bosworth’s claims seem to have substance as these employees come from other departments and have different roles. He also says that he will work towards having the reviews removed soon.

Our thoughts

Collectively, Facebook Portal had over 200 reviews on Amazon. In 2017, Facebook employed over 25,000 people. We also know that Amazon is a big part of people’s lives in the US. So it is possible that Facebook might have informed its employees to not post reviews on Amazon, they still did it. They might have done it by accident, they might have forgotten about it, or they might not have been aware of such an announcement at all.

But there are discrepancies as well. For example, one of the employees wrote “I have historically not been a big Facebook or other social media user” and then he goes out and buys four Portals, with the least expensive retailing for $200. Of course, it could just be that a Facebook employee is not a big Facebook user, but, to be completely frank, does sound a bit suspicious and throws doubt over Facebook’s involvement in this whole scandal.

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