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Behind the Brigade: What the Data Tells Us About the 3,482 Deleted Reviews for Donald Trump’s $179 Ornament

December 7th, 2016

At ReviewMeta, we do more than just provide an analysis on the reviews for any product on Amazon; we monitor trends and collect A LOT of data.  Over 70 million reviews and counting.

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You’ve probably heard about the review brigade flooding Donald Trump’s $100+ Christmas Ornament with thousands of fake one-star reviews.  While Amazon has deleted thousands, we still have the data on them.

There’s definitely overlap in the brigades.

For many of those who participated in the brigade on Trump’s Ornament, this isn’t their first rodeo – we see that several reviewers have a habit of participating in review brigades.

17 reviewers also brigaded “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles.  16 are 1-star; 1 is 5-star.  All are also unverified, none were deleted.

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This is another book that appears to be the victim of a brigade, however we haven’t seen Amazon do any clean-up on it.  Here’s an example review by someone who also had their review of Trump’s Ornament deleted:

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13 reviewers also brigaded “My Parents Open Carry.  11 are negative; 2 are positive.  All are also unverified, none were deleted.

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Here’s another example of a book that’s been flooded with 1-star unverified reviews.  We haven’t seen Amazon delete any of these yet either.  This is an example review by someone who also had their review of Trump’s Ornament deleted:

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9 reviewers also brigaded Hillary’s “Stronger Together.  Every single one is 1-star and unverified.  Only one of them has been deleted.  The corresponding deleted Trump reviews? Mostly positive.

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The reviews for Stronger Together were the subject of much debate during the recent election.  Hundreds of reviews were deleted, many blamed Amazon of “fixing” the reviews, yet thousands of unverified 1-star reviews still remain.  Here’s an example of a review by someone who had their 5-star review of Trump’s Ornament deleted:

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And another reviewer who had their 5-star review for Trump’s ornament deleted:

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7 reviewers also brigaded Megyn Kelly’s “Settle for More.  All were deleted; all were unverified.  All either gave Trump 5-stars and Kelly 1-star, or Trump 1-star and Kelly 5-stars.

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Megyn Kelly’s book has been the center of much press recently.  A target of pro-Trump brigades, Amazon has deleted over 900 reviews which seems to be a sufficient clean-up (notice how our algorithm does not detect an existing brigade), however some troll reviews are still trickling in:

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The deleted reviews paint a telling picture.

Almost all deleted reviews were NOT verified purchases.

Not surprisingly, 3,479 of the 3,482 deleted reviews did NOT have the “Verified Purchaser” badge.  Amazon recently capped unverified purchase reviews to 5 per week for each reviewer, but this is pretty ineffective for fighting brigades.  Our data shows that about 50% of these reviewers have less than 10 reviews total, so a limit of 5 unverified reviews per week isn’t going to change a thing.

Not all deleted reviews were 1-star.

Only 82% of the deleted reviews gave the product a 1-star rating.  15% of them were actually a 5-star review.

We’re seeing a lot of politically charged words in the deleted reviews.

Here’s some sample “politically charged” words and the approximate percentages of reviews containing them:

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Amazon Needs to Change Their Review Policy

By continuing to allow unverified purchase reviews, Amazon is continuing to allow these highly public brigades.  While their cleanup efforts seem sufficient in some cases, it’s unfair to the authors who don’t get a sufficient cleanup.  

Let’s take a look at the current analysis on ReviewMeta.com: http://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B01N67D8HO

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The first thing that we notice is the “Brigade Warning” is still up.  At the time of writing, 56 reviews are still live on Amazon, and our algorithm has deemed many of them to be part of a brigade.  (Learn more about review brigades here)

91% of these are unverified purchases.  Why Amazon has allowed these 56 reviews to remain and deleted thousands of others is completely beyond us.

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The next thing we notice is that there are over 3,000 deleted reviews.  Amazon is taking a reactive approach against brigades rather than outright banning unverified purchases and thus preventing them from even forming in the first place.