Why You Can't Trust Online Reviews

Online ratings services are for-profit businesses that sell ads to the same local companies their users review—a potential conflict of interest.

Q. My friend says that some of my favorite online ratings services—with user reviews of restaurants, stores and local service providers—are tainted by a variety of unethical practices, such as fake reviews and favoritism toward firms that advertise on the sites. Is she right?

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Knight Kiplinger
Editor Emeritus, Kiplinger

Knight came to Kiplinger in 1983, after 13 years in daily newspaper journalism, the last six as Washington bureau chief of the Ottaway Newspapers division of Dow Jones. A frequent speaker before business audiences, he has appeared on NPR, CNN, Fox and CNBC, among other networks. Knight contributes to the weekly Kiplinger Letter.