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Amazon convinced Apple to remove the Fakespot review detector from the App Store

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Fakespot spied on the possibility of detecting bad sellers and fake reviews on Amazon using sophisticated computer programs.

Apple; illustration by Stephen Shankland / CNET

Apple took the Fakespot rating app from the App Store on Friday, after receiving a complaint from Amazon saying that Fakespot inaccurately detects bad sellers and fake revaluations at their store.

Moved the cut a month back and forth between Apple, Amazon and Fakespot over the app, Fakespot CEO Saoud Khalifah said in an interview. Amazon said in a statement Friday that Fakespot “provides customers with misleading information about our sellers and their products, harms sellers’ businesses” when classifying products and sellers on a scale separate from Amazon’s own rating system. Amazon also said it was unable to verify what Fakespot “does or does not do today or in the future, which is why this is a security risk.”

Khalifah accused Amazon of trying to cover up scams that occurred on the platform, which he said his app was designed to highlight.

“It’s a consumer right to know when you read a fake review, if you get a counterfeit, if you get a product that is fraudulent that is going to hurt you,” he said. “This system is corrupted.”

Fakespot’s iPhone app has been installed about 150,000 times since it was released a couple of years ago. The company, which has so far raised more than $ 5 million in funding, is not currently monetizing the service.

Apple said this was “a dispute over intellectual property rights initiated by Amazon on June 8” and that they were trying to work with both companies to resolve the issue. Apple said it also reached out to Fakespot again on June 29 before the app was removed.

Amazon’s complaints about Fakespot come when the e-commerce company increasingly breaks with companies and groups asking for reviews on the platform. Amazon prohibits “incentivized” revaluations, where companies give refunds or free products in exchange for reviews.

In June, around the time Amazon took its first complaint about Fakespot to Apple, Amazon published a blog post about fake reviews on the site. The company said it removed 200 million suspected false reviews before they could be posted on sites listed by one of 1.9 million third-party sellers on the platform. The company uses computer programs to look for suspicious behavior, such as clusters of new customer accounts evaluating the same products. Nevertheless, fake assessment groups have appeared on social networks, such as Facebook, further encouraging behavior.

False reviews can help brands play the Amazon system, which uses positive reviews to market products on rankings.

“We’ve seen a growing trend of bad actors trying to ask for fake reviews outside of Amazon, especially via social media,” said a blog post from Amazon last month. “Some use social media services alone; in other cases, they hire a third-party service provider to perform this activity on their behalf.”

Fakespot says it is “a data analysis company” that uses computer programs to identify whether reviews and reviewers who leave them are legitimate. The app assesses the quality of the reviewer’s writing, the reviewer’s profile and other proofreading information for a given product.

“We use trained artificial intelligence to pick up patterns,” the company said in a statement on the service. “The more data that flows into the system, the better the system at detecting counterfeits.”

Amazon said that they rated the products Fakespot rated as unreliable and found that it was wrong 80% of the time. Apple’s review policy prohibits apps that disseminate “false information” as well as apps that gain access to another company’s service without permission.

Fakespots Khalifah expressed frustration that Apple took down its app, while leaving the Amazon app, with the false reviews his company finds, up. “It’s hypocrisy,” he said.

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