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Comic Book Guy

There's a reason the online shopping giant is called Amazon --- among all of the options, it can feel like you're searching through a dense jungle to find exactly what you're looking for. Thankfully, we have product reviews to guide us through, and tell us which laptop, or bed frame, or whatever to go with. But what if you couldn't trust those reviews at all? Unfortunately, that might have been the case in regards to certain reviews, but now Amazon is implementing a change in its guidelines that will hopefully make its reviews section trustworthy again.

In a blog post on Monday, Amazon announced that it will no longer allow incentivized reviews. These are reviews that were written by people who received the product for free or discounted in exchange for a review. Amazon has already been persistent in banning retailers who may pay their customers to write positive reviews for their products, but the site has allowed these incentivized reviews up until now.

Amazon's updated terms of service comes a couple weeks after the review analysis site ReviewMeta published a study finding that these incentivized reviewers were significantly more likely to write positive reviews, showing a positive bias. In a viral video that shows the statistical analysis of over 7 million Amazon reviews, ReviewMeta found that reviewers who received a free or discounted product gave an average of 4.74 stars, as compared to the non-incentivized average of 4.36 stars. That difference may seem small, but the study points out that it actually separates what the site would consider a mediocre product and what it would list as a top-rated product.

The analysis also found that the incentivized reviewers were twelve times less likely to write a one-star review than other reviewers, and they were four times less likely to write critical reviews. Amazon had allowed these incentivized reviews even after decidedly banning paid reviews, claiming that they were a great way to get some opinions online about new or not-so-well-known products.

Though Amazon is banning incentivized reviews among the retailers that use the site, it will still allow some through its Amazon Vine Program. The difference is that through the Vine program, Amazon itself chooses trusted reviewers to receive new or currently unreleased products, rather than the retailer who is selling the products. Amazon also promises that its Vine program does not incentivize positive reviews, and does not even require that its members write reviews for the products they are given.

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