Amazon reviews hijacked by causes, conspiracies, rage

Jay Greene, for the Seattle Times:

Reviewers have long used Amazon as a platform to vent about products that failed to live up to their expectations. Some have even used it to attack authors whose views differ from their own.
Increasingly, though, people are launching coordinated campaigns to push political and social agendas through negative reviews often only tangentially related to the product for sale. They are able to do so because Amazon welcomes reviews regardless of whether the writer has actually purchased the product.
[The author of a book about Sandy Hook, Scarlett] Lewis isn’t the only target of the Sandy Hook tragedy deniers. “We want to hit this woman as hard as we can,” says a narrator in a YouTube video as he walks viewers through posting 1-star ratings and negative reviews for “Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Life’s Darkest Hours,” by Sandy Hook Elementary first-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis. The video, posted by “Peekay22,” even guides viewers to click a “Yes” button indicating they found other negative reviews helpful.
Since Peekay22’s video posted on Oct. 16, “Choosing Hope” has received more than 170 1-star reviews out of just over 250 total reviews. That’s tanked the book’s rating down to 2.1 stars out of 5.
“Amazon is giving these people a forum … ,” Lewis said. “Obviously, Amazon should remove (the reviews).”
But Amazon appears to have no intent of doing so. To the company, as long as the reviews are “authentic,” they have a place on its website.
“All authentic reviews, whether the reviewer bought the product on Amazon or not, are valuable to customers, helping them make informed buying decisions every day,” Amazon spokesman Tom Cook wrote in reply to questions about its review policy.