The Internet Scam We No Longer Have to Fear

yelp reviewResearchers at Cornell University (you know, that douchey school) recently unveiled what could be the greatest addition to the Internet since Friendster: Software that detects bogus online reviews. Genius.

The program, which currently only exists for Chicago hotels, but is set to soon expand, claims it can detect phony reviews with 90 percent accuracy. That's significantly more accurate than if human judges were trying to do the deciphering. I won't bore you with all the details of how it works, but the CliffsNotes version is that the software detects certain key words and word patterns unique to both types of reviews. For instance, fake reviews use more verbs, real ones use more nouns.

This is a happy day, fellow consumers and seekers of the best Korean barbecue in town, a happy day indeed.


Let me tell you a story. A few months before getting this here job at The Stir, I was poking around on Craigslist, looking for a way to drum up some extra cash. I stumbled across one of those vague job listings that technically seemed legit, but had gaping holes in the actual job description itself. Being on the strapped side, I threw caution (and scruples) to the wind and applied.

A few days later a response popped up in my Gmail. (I just did a search for it, hoping to do some cutting and pasting, but I can't seem to find it.) Basically, the guy was offering me the (very lucrative) gig of pumping out glowing reviews for an app that wasn't even out yet. I think they wanted something like 25 reviews per day, all to be submitted at specific times and in a specific manner. Certain writing parameters also applied. I.E., I couldn't be too specific.

As financially enticing as the offer was, I turned it down. Not only did it seem wrong to review something I had never laid eyes on, I was motivated by the one thing I'm always motivated by: Fear of future consequences. What if I got caught? What if I got arrested?!

Bogus reviews have just become an unfortunate part of the wonderful Internet world we live in. And it sucks. I never know if what I'm reading is true or not -- especially after that sketchy job offer. My hope is that this program will put an end to all my doubt. That is, until the dirty scoundrels figure out a way around it.

Do you trust online reviews?


Image via Yelp

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