When online review platforms were first becoming popular, businesses who struggled to get legitimate reviews often turned to unsavory tactics to boost their ratings. One of the common practices was to create multiple user profiles to spam five-star reviews (with the occasional four-star review to throw off any suspicions).
Some businesses would resort to hiring fake reviewers on Craigslist. This was a more costly measure to be sure, but it was effective nonetheless at artificially boosting review scores. While these practices are still alive and well today, online review platforms have begun taking significant countermeasures.
Yelp has led the charge, implementing an algorithm that changed the way fraudulent reviews, or at least the reviews deemed as fraudulent, are filtered on the site. Coupled with a few stings here and there to catch sneaky businesses red-handed, Yelp has made significant strides in reducing fake reviews.
While this is certainly a step in the right direction it isn’t enough. The algorithm has yet to be refined to the point of being able to differentiate between bogus reviews and legitimate reviews in every instance.
Consider the case involving the Amantia brothers for example who suffered a major blow to their business when they were punished by Yelp’s algorithm for seemingly no reason.
What’s needed is an alternative that punishes those who deserve to be punished, but rewards those who have worked tirelessly to build their reputations from the ground up without resorting to shady tactics.
This alternative must be more effective than any singular algorithm, no matter how intelligent it may be. That alternative? Blockchain.
Decentralized Review Platforms
As of this moment, there are a number of ways businesses can artificially influence their online review ratings. Worst of all there’s nothing stopping businesses from deleting a profile riddled with bad reviews and replacing it with a new one. In a sense, businesses can resurrect themselves time and again, erasing their old sins in the process.
With blockchain technology, this can all be changed. Blockchain is decentralized, meaning it isn’t owned by a single entity. It’s a shared, trusted, public ledger of transactions that can be inspected by everyone on the network.
Once information has been recorded inside a blockchain, it becomes next to impossible to change it. Everyone on the P2P (peer to peer) network will have their own copy of the blockchain in full.
That means businesses won’t be able to erase old sins by deleting a single review page – they would have to reach a consensus with the other members on the blockchain to add or delete information. What does this mean for online review platforms?
Due to the decentralized nature of blockchain technology, businesses would not be able to remove or artificially boost their reputation scores. When reviews are submitted, a copy is sent to every member on the blockchain, making it impossible for users to tamper with their review ratings.
Blockchain takes transparency to the next level, allowing users to trust not only established businesses but also the authors of online reviews. Fraudulent reviews will forever be recorded in the form of a transaction, and the author will forever be associated with that review.
As a result, personal reputations will be at stake when information is recorded to the blockchain. With more on the line at the individual level, most people will think twice before putting out information that may be deemed as fraudulent.
Changing the way we review online
There are already examples of reputation systems working on a blockchain. One such example belongs to the decentralized oracle and predictions platform Augur which offers prediction markets for sports, culture, politics and more.
Blockchain provides a possible avenue to build more trust in online review platforms. It puts the power of reputation in the hands of the people in a way never done before. Don’t be surprised if blockchain begins to play a larger role in reputation management in the near future.