Google Hunts Bogus Reviews

John Lister's picture

Google says it removed "millions" of bogus reviews and ratings for apps in a single week. It's tweaked its approach to detecting fake feedback to avoid mistakenly flagging legitimate reviews.

The company says it wants to address three problems with user reviews in the Google Play store. One is to address reviews that are "genuine" but contain hateful or profane language or aren't relevant to the app in question.

The second problem is "fake" ratings that are part of a campaign to manipulate the overall average score rather than being a real verdict by a user. This includes both five star ratings to boost an app and one star ratings to hurt a rival app.

Finally, Google wants to crack down on reviews and ratings that are left by real users who are responding to incentives such as payment or freebies in return for leaving a good review. In many cases, less-than-favorable developers will offer rewards for five star ratings in order to artificially boost their ranking amongst other apps.

AI Hunts Bogus Reviews

At one stage Google tried to completely automate the process for spotting and removing fake feedback, relying entirely on artificial intelligence. This certainly appeared flawed in one case with numerous completely legitimate reviews removed from apps from a specific developer.

Now Google says it is still using the automated system, but getting engineers and analysts to constantly monitor how the system is determining "fake" feedback. It's also using more human reviewers to check a sample of the automated decisions to check for systemic problems.

Users Can Flag Fake Feedback

Google has also warned developers that they should not incentivise any users to leave positive feedback. It notes that some developers might inadvertently breach these rules, for example by thinking they are encouraging users who genuinely love an app but might not bother rating or reviewing. (Source:

Google also noted that as well as following the guidelines of not accepting incentives to leave positive feedback, users can report any bogus-appearing reviews that they see by selecting the flag icon beside the review. Perhaps confusingly, it says users need to report fake reviews in the Spam category. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

How seriously do you take ratings and reviews in app stores? Would you ever leave a five star rating in return for a reward? Is spotting fake reviews something that can really be done automatically?

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scowei's picture

I rarely add apps that are not specifically related to a service I need, such as a bank. So, I can't answer your question.

But, I'd like to say that I wish Amazon would ban all incentives for reviews as well. Review inflation is a scourge.