An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Amazon is making a significant change to its Community Guidelines, announced today, which will eliminate any incentivized reviews, except for those that emerge from within its own Amazon Vine program. This program allows Amazon -- not the seller or vendor -- to identify trusted reviewers, and has a number of controls in place in order to keep bias out of the review process. Amazon has historically prohibited compensation for reviews -- even going so far as to sue those businesses who pay for fake reviews, as well as the individuals who write them, in an effort to make its review and rating system fairer and more helpful to online shoppers. However, it has allowed businesses to offer products to customers in exchange for their "honest" review. The only condition was that those reviewers would have to disclose their affiliation with the business in question in the text of their review. Reviewers were generally offered the product for free or at a discounted price, in exchange for their review. Although, in theory, these reviewers could write their true opinion on the product -- positive or negative -- these incentivized reviews have tended to be overwhelmingly biased in favor of the product being rated. Amazon says that, going forward, the only incentivized reviews will be those from Amazon Vine. These don't work the same way, however. For starters, Amazon selects who will be allowed to review products, and it does so mainly to boost the review count on new or pre-release products that haven't yet generated enough sales to have a large number of organic reviews. Vine reviewers are invited to join the program only after having written a number of reviews voted as "helpful" by other customers, and tend to have expertise in a specific product category. In addition, vendors don't have any contact with Vine reviewers, nor do they get to influence which reviewers will receive their products, which are submitted directly to Amazon for distribution. These changes will apply to all product categories other than books, as Amazon has always allowed advance copies of books to be distributed, the retailer notes.
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