Fake is as old as the Eden tree.
— Orson Welles
Blogs, forums and other websites that allow room for such elements of online social interaction as customer reviews are still a great way to promote merchants through affiliate programs. One thing to keep in mind though is the fact that faking reviews is not only unethical, but it is now also being prosecuted by attorneys general.
Earlier this week The State of New York fined a cosmetic surgery company $300,000 for fabricated reviews. The New York Times wrote:
The company had ordered employees to pretend they were satisfied customers and write glowing reviews of its face-lift procedure on Web sites, according to the attorney general’s statement. Lifestyle Lift also created its own sites of face-lift reviews to appear as independent sources.
One e-mail message, discovered by the attorney general’s office, told employees to “devote the day to doing more postings on the Web as a satisfied client.”
I think this is a good precedent. Both affiliates, and merchants have something to learn from it. The Internet is giving us not only a larger reach, but also a responsibility. It is good to see things becoming more transparent, and hence authentic.