Fake reviews economy

“Isn’t this illegal?” I found myself typing one Tuesday night at 1:15 AM.

I was chatting with Lien Xi, an Amazon seller from Guangzhou, China, I’d met several minutes before in a private Facebook group. She’d courted me with an offer: If I gave her phone charger a 5-star review, she would refund the purchase via PayPal and send me a $10 “commission.”

“No,” she responded, with a smiley face emoji. “You will love.”

I looked up her product on Amazon: It was one of the highest-ranked iPhone chargers, touting 3,971 5-star reviews and a trusted “Amazon’s Choice” label.

How did this happen?

This question sent me hurtling through Amazon’s massive fake-review economy — a journey that included private Facebook bazaars, thousands of fraudulent sellers from Tianjin to Tennessee, and an encounter with a morally righteous bodybuilder who is trying to deadlift a broken system.

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