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Goodreads Has a Review Problem

Authors threatened with 'review bombing' unless they pay scammers a fee
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2021 6:30 PM CDT
Goodreads Has a Review Problem
   (Getty/Nadya So)

(Newser) – Goodreads has become a behemoth in the world of book reviews. Need proof? Look up a book online to check out reviews, and Goodreads—which is owned by Amazon—will frequently turn up first. In theory this is fine. Goodreads "functions as a hybrid social media platform and digital library," writes Courtney Rodgers at Bookriot. But her investigative story and another by Megan McCluskey at Time dig into real-world problems plaguing the site and damaging its credibility among both authors and users looking for books. "Bots. Bots are what’s going at Goodreads," writes Rodgers. "What happens is that a company or individual will pay for hundreds of positive reviews of their product, so that when a potential buyer sees the reviews, all they see are positive reviews and 5-star ratings." McCluskey, meanwhile, lays out what may be a more disturbing issue.

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"Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of 'review bombing' their work." She interviews multiple authors (often self-published ones who live and die by word of mouth) who received threats, didn't pay, and woke up to a deluge of similar-sounding 1-star ratings. And sometimes it's not about money, with authors, frequently ones from a marginalized community, becoming the victim of a review bomb after speaking out publicly on a volatile issue. Both stories accuse Goodreads of turning a deaf ear to complaints but say fixes are possible. Examples: Goodreads could implement some of Amazon's own safeguards (verified phone number, email, purchases, etc.) to make help make sure reviewers are credible. And they could find better ways to rank top reviewers. ("Why is that spot based on numbers?" wonders Rodgers.) Goodreads says it's working on fixes. (Read more books stories.)

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