Forms of falsified online reviews: The good, the bad, and the downright ugly

Doga Istanbulluoglu, Lloyd C Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose – Falsified online reviews (FORs) are the published/viewable consumer-generated online content regarding a firm (or its representatives) or its services and goods that is, to some degree, untruthful or falsified. In this study, the authors first explore the nature of FORs, focusing on reviewers’ interpretations and reflections on falsity, intent, anonymity and the target of their FOR. Secondly, the authors examine the valence and veracity dimensions of FORs and introduce a typology to differentiate their variations.
Design/methodology/approach – Using an exploratory research design, 48 interviews were conducted with participants who post online reviews on social media about their experiences in the hospitality industry.
Findings – The results show four common forms of FORs on social media. These are reviews focused on equity equalizing, friendly flattery, opinionated opportunism and malicious profiteering.
Research limitations/implications – The authors provide exploratory and in-depth information via interviews, but do not analyse the content of FORs.
Practical implications – Firms should be aware of varieties of FORs and that these may not be limited to malicious content. This is important in terms of showing that in dealing with FORs, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. FORs are not always entirely fabricated, and instead various levels of falseness are observed, ranging from slight alterations to complete fabrications.
Originality/value – Previous research explored how to identify and differentiate FORs from truthful ones, focusing on the reviews or how they are perceived by readers. However, comparatively little is known of the reviewers of FORs. Hence, this study focuses on reviewers and offers new insights into the nature of FORs by identifying and examining the main forms of FORs on social media.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Early online date5 Sept 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Sept 2023

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