Technology to the Rescue to Solve the Social Problem of Sock Puppets

The integrity and value of social networks and of commercial product and service reviews depends on the authenticity of the content.

Big companies like Amazon and big universities like Cornell and others are hard at work developing policies and algorithms to solve the problem of sock puppet posting of reviews and other content on the Internet.

Here are three examples:

1. Cornell software fingers fake online reviews: Cornell brainiacs have come up with software that spots fake reviews, something we humans aren't good at. Fictitious happy customers beware.

2. A sock puppet detection algorithm on virtual spaces. Knowledge-Based Systems (January 2013), 37, Complete, pg. 366-377.

"On virtual spaces, some individuals use multiple usernames or copycat/forge other users (usually called “sock puppet”) to communicate with others. Those sock puppets are fake identities through which members of Internet community praise or create the illusion of support for the product or one’s work, pretending to be a different person. A fundamental problem is how to identify these sock puppets.

"In this paper, we propose a sock puppet detection algorithm which combines authorship-identification techniques and link analysis. Firstly, we propose an interesting social network model in which links between two IDs are built if they have similar attitudes to most topics that both of them participate in; then, the edges are pruned according a hypothesis test, which consider the impact of their writing styles; finally, the link-based community detection for pruned network is performed. Compared to traditional methods, our approach has three advantages: (1) it conforms to the practical meanings of sock puppet community; (2) it can be applied in online situation; (3) it increases the efficiency of link analysis. In the experimental work, we evaluate our method using real datasets and compared our approach with several previous methods; the results have proved above advantages."

3. Amazon Tackles Review Problem, Deletes Wrong Reviews (Forbes): Amazon is quite strict about their policy. They take questionable reviews right down, and if questioned they explain it bluntly:
I’m sorry for any previous concerns regarding your reviews on our site. We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product.

We have removed your reviews as they are in violation of our guidelines. We will not be able to go into further detail about our research.

I understand that you are upset, and I regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on this matter.
As is often the case in the world of high-tech, social problems can be solved in part by developing even more high tech.

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