This latest action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) 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.
Facebook gave a similar pledge in relation to its Instagram.com business 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.
- 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
- putting in place dedicated processes to make sure that these changes continue to work effectively and stop the problems from reappearing
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said:
Never before has online shopping been so important. The pandemic has meant that more and more people are buying online, and millions of us read reviews to enable us to make informed choices when we shop around. That’s why fake and misleading reviews are so damaging – if people lose trust in online reviews, they are less able to shop around with confidence, and will miss out on the best deals. It also means that businesses playing by the rules miss out.
Facebook has a duty to do all it can to stop the trading of such content on its platforms. After we intervened again, the company made significant changes – but it is disappointing it has taken them over a year to fix these issues.
We will continue to keep a close eye on Facebook, including its Instagram business. Should we find it is failing to honour its commitments, we will not hesitate to take further action.
This move follows the Government’s announcement that a dedicated Digital Markets Unit (DMU) will be set up within the CMA from April 2021. Once the necessary legislation is in place, this 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.