A Tangled Web: Should Online Review Portals Display Fraudulent Reviews?

Forthcoming, Information Systems Research

64 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2018 Last revised: 8 Mar 2020

See all articles by Uttara M Ananthakrishnan

Uttara M Ananthakrishnan

Michael G. Foster School of Business

Beibei Li

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Michael D. Smith

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: March 6, 2020

Abstract

The growing interest in online product reviews for legitimate promotion has been accompanied by an increase in fraudulent reviews. However, beyond algorithms for initial fraud detection, little is known about what review portals should do with fraudulent reviews after detecting them. In this paper, we address this question by studying how consumers respond to potentially fraudulent reviews and how review portals can leverage this knowledge to design better fraud management policies.

To do this, we combine theoretical development from the trust literature with randomized experiments and statistical analysis using large-scale data from Yelp. We find that consumers tend to increase their trust in the information provided by review portals when the portal displays fraudulent reviews along with non-fraudulent reviews, as opposed to the common practice of censoring suspected fraudulent reviews. The impact of fraudulent reviews on consumers’ decision-making process increases with the uncertainty in the initial evaluation of product quality. We also find that consumers do not effectively process the content of fraudulent reviews (negative or positive). This result furthers the case for a decision heuristic that will incorporate the motivational differences between positive fraudulent reviews and negative fraudulent reviews to effectively aid consumers' decision making.

Keywords: Fraudulent Reviews, Randomized Experiment, User Trust, Online Platform, Product Search Engine

Suggested Citation

Ananthakrishnan, Uttara M and Li, Beibei and Smith, Michael D., A Tangled Web: Should Online Review Portals Display Fraudulent Reviews? (March 6, 2020). Forthcoming, Information Systems Research, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3297363 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3297363

Uttara M Ananthakrishnan (Contact Author)

Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353200
Seattle, WA 98195-3200
United States

Beibei Li

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Michael D. Smith

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/~mds

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