Amazon sues writers of fake reviews

Who among us does not read consumer reviews before buying an online product?  Or eating out at a new restaurant?  Or choosing a service provider?

These seem to me to be a valuable dimension of the online marketplace, and they have become very important to the businesses getting reviewed.  I appreciate it when companies post an answer to a negative review, pledging to address the problems that were noted.  For the marketplace to be responsive to consumers, it needs information, and now that information–from feedback to businesses to warnings and testimonials to fellow consumers–is now instantly available.

And yet it invites fraud.  I read one estimate that 10% of  reviews are faked.  Businesses can review themselves, or cajole or even pay other people to give them a 5-star review.  Review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor try to police that as best they can.

Now Amazon, which posts reviews not only for books but for practically everything it sells,  is suing up to 1,000 writers who are part of a scheme to post positive reviews for $5 apiece. [Read more…]

Vengeance, competition, and Christianity

Some time ago, I stumbled upon a discussion of Christian anthropologist Rene Girard and Pay Pal founder Peter Thiel.  It had to do with vengeance, competition, new technology start ups, and why both Girard and Thiel came to embrace Christianity. [Read more…]

Electromagnetic Propulsion Drive?

A device has been invented that generates much more propulsion than a rocket.  The electromagnetic propulsion drive (EM Drive) works by bouncing microwaves around, and it could conceivably get us to Mars in only 70 days, as opposed to 260 days with current technology.  But it violates the known laws of physics, and scientists cannot figure out why it works.  Nevertheless, experimental tests keep confirming that it does.   However, skeptics remain.

Does any of you know anything about this?  Is this a delusion, like cold fusion?  Or might it be an invention that will open up interplanetary travel?

[Read more…]

Volkswagen’s scam

Since 2009, Volkswagen diesels have had software that detects when the car is on one of those treadmills states use for your annual emissions test.  Whereupon the software causes the car to emit very few pollutants.  But when the car goes back to normal driving, the software shuts down and the pollutants pour forth.

That acclaimed German engineering used for such a flagrant deception!  Now dealers are stuck with lotsful of inventory they aren’t allowed to sell, owners can’t pass their emissions tests, their resale value has plummeted, the head of the company has resigned, and a respected brand is utterly discredited.

Do any of you have a Volkswagen diesel affected by this scandal?  What is the company telling you?

[Read more…]

Ransomware

The internet purports to offer the cover of anonymity for embarrassing vices, but that is not always the case, as the number of people whose reputation has been ruined by the Ashley Madison hacks have learned.  Now there is a new class of online/cellphone virus called ransomware.

This often preys on the user’s fear of being exposed.  For example, in a recent case, a porn app takes your picture, take over your device, and blocks your phone, supposedly on the grounds of your using child pornography.  It demands $500 to unfreeze your phone and make it all go away.  Thus blackmail and extortion enter the information age. [Read more…]

Scam, fraud, and blackmail at Wikipedia

Wikipedia has banned 381 of its editors for scamming and in some cases extorting small businesses and celebrities, taking money to get favorable articles approved and “protected.” [Read more…]


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