Facebook takes further action on fake and misleading reviews following CMA intervention

April 15, 2021

According to the CMA, more than three-quarters of people are influenced by reviews when they shop online, and billions of pounds are spent every year based on write-ups of products or services. Fake and misleading reviews are illegal under consumer protection law. The CMA points out that websites have a responsibility to ensure that unlawful and harmful content is not advertised or sold through their platforms.

The CMA has now taken further action on fake and misleading reviews on Facebook and Instagram as part of its wider work on the issue.  It follows reports that fake and misleading reviews continued to be bought and sold on the social media platforms.

In January 2020, Facebook committed to better identify, investigate and remove groups and other pages where fake and misleading reviews were being traded, and prevent them from reappearing.  It provided similar commitments regarding Instagram in May 2020, after the CMA had identified similar concerns. A follow-up investigation found evidence that the illegal trade in fake reviews was still taking place on both Facebook and Instagram and the CMA intervened for a second time.

Facebook has now removed a further 16,000 groups that were dealing in fake and misleading reviews. It has also made further changes to its systems for identifying, removing and preventing such content on its social media platforms to ensure it is fulfilling its previous commitments.

These include:

  • suspending or banning users who are repeatedly creating Facebook groups and Instagram profiles that promote, encourage or facilitate fake and misleading reviews;
  • introducing new automated processes that will improve the detection and removal of this content;
  • making it harder for people to use Facebook’s search tools to find fake and misleading review groups and profiles on Facebook and Instagram; and
  • putting in place dedicated processes to make sure that these changes continue to work effectively and stop the problems from reappearing.

This move follows the UK government’s announcement last week that a dedicated Digital Markets Unit will be set up within the CMA from April 2021. Once the necessary legislation is in place, the DMU will introduce and enforce a new code for governing the behaviour of platforms that currently dominate the market. As part of this process, the CMA has been advising government on the design and implementation of a pro-competition regime for digital markets.