The reviews are pouring in for Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened,” a memoir detailing her bitter loss in the 2016 election. But her publisher says some of them — both good and bad — are likely fake.
“It seems highly unlikely that approximately 1,500 people read Hillary Clinton’s book overnight and came to the stark conclusion that it is either brilliant or awful,” Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp told The Associated Press (The publisher did not immediately respond to request for comment).
In a politically charged landscape, divisive books can quickly attract floods of feedback, much of which is not legitimate. Megyn Kelly experienced the issue when, within hours of its release, her book ‘Settle for More’ was flooded with dozens of negative reviews on Amazon. Similarly, Amy Schumer’s book released in August 2016 received an influx of fake reviews on the website. Amazon policy requires reviews to be related to the product, a spokesman told MarketWatch
“In the case of a memoir, the subject of the book is the author and their views,” he said. It’s not our role to decide what a customer would view as helpful or unhelpful in making their decision. We do however have mechanisms in place to ensure that the voices of many do not drown out the voices of a few and we remove customer reviews that violate our community guidelines.”
A top negative review on Clinton’s book says, “Should be titled, “WAAAAHHH IT’S NOT MY FAULT,” and reads: “Seriously, if I wanted to hear about how someone’s failure is on everyone but them, I’ll talk to my three-year-old when she breaks something. Oh wait, my three-year-old even knows how to accept her failures as her own.” Others, like one titled, simply, “garbage.”
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Some were largely supportive: one titled “we are still with her,” said: “HRC is one of this countries greatest political assets who was such a threat to her enemies that they would rather destroy America than allow this woman to rise to power.” Another five star review said “She deserves all the gratitude we can muster.”
Although Amazon claims to have policy in place counteract unreliable reviews, the mechanisms of doing so are “secretive,” said Michael Parrish Dudell, chief strategy officer at CouponFollow. “Amazon is not entirely transparent on how or why they do that,” he said. “Their terms of service are loose and allow for it, and you can guess they’ll be doing this on big books where publisher is adding pressure.”
Customers seeking to gauge the accuracy of reviews on Amazon and other sites can use reviewmeta.com, which analyzes products based on an algorithm. According to its analysis of “What Happened,” the original rating was 4.3 out of 5 stars, including 704 reviews. Its adjusted rating shows 5 out of 5 stars with 239 reviews, suggesting more than 400 reviews had been modified or deleted.
It also showed 42% of the reviews came from unverified purchases, which means they did not buy the product from Amazon. Unverified users rated the product an average of 1.9 stars whereas verified purchasers reviewed it 4.9 out of 5 stars. Reviews from verified customers are generally 12% higher than those from anonymous buyers, according to review analysis site PowerReviews. Amazon’s use of verified buyers gives more credibility than some online platforms, said Theresa O’Neil, senior vice president of marketing, PowerReviews.
“Amazon is highly scrutinized regarding the authenticity of its product reviews,” she said. “It has made huge strides in the past few months to cut down on fraud and increase authenticity in their reviews.”