Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


We Won’t Get Fooled Again: Some Online Reviews Are Too Good to be True, as Cornell Software Spots ‘Opinion Spam’

If you read online reviews before purchasing a product or service, you may not be reading the truth. Review sites are becoming targets for “opinion spam” – phony reviews created by sellers to hype their own products and slam the competition.

The bad news: Human beings are lousy at identifying deceptive reviews.

The good news: Cornell researchers are developing computer software that’s pretty good at it. In 800 Chicago hotel reviews, their software was able to pick out 90 percent of deceptive reviews. In the process, the researchers uncovered some key features to help determine if a review was spam, and even evidence of a correspondence between the linguistic structure of deceptive reviews and fiction writing.

The work was recently presented by Myle Ott, Cornell doctoral candidate in computer science, at the annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Portland, Ore. The other researchers include Claire Cardie, Cornell professor of computer science, Jeff Hancock, Cornell associate professor of communication and information science, and Yejin Choi, a recent Cornell computer science doctoral graduate.

“While this is the first study of its kind, and there's a lot more to be done, I think our approach will eventually help review sites identify and eliminate these fraudulent reviews,” Ott said.

The researchers created what they believe to be the first benchmark collection of opinion spam by asking 400 people to deliberately write false positive reviews of 20 Chicago hotels. These were compared with an equal number of randomly chosen truthful reviews.

As a baseline, the researchers submitted a subset of reviews to three human judges – volunteer Cornell undergraduates – who scored no better than chance in identifying deception. The three did not even agree on which reviews were deceptive, reinforcing the conclusion that they did no better than chance. Historically, Ott notes, humans suffer from a “truth bias,” assuming that what they are reading is true until they find evidence to the contrary. When people are trained at detecting deception they become overly skeptical and report deception too often, generally still scoring at chance levels.

The researchers then applied statistical machine learning algorithms to uncover the subtle cues to deception. Deceptive hotel reviews, for example, are more likely to contain language that sets the scene, like “vacation,” “business” or “my husband.” Truth-tellers use more concrete words relating to the hotel, like “bathroom,” “check-in” and “price.” Truth-tellers and deceivers also differ in their use of certain keywords, punctuation, and even how much they talk about themselves. In agreement with previous studies of imaginative vs. informative writing, deceivers also use more verbs and truth-tellers use more nouns.

To evaluate their approach, the researchers trained their algorithms on a subset of the true and false reviews, then tested them on the rest. The best results, they found, came from combining keyword analysis with the ways words are used in combination. This combined approach identified deceptive reviews with 89.8 percent accuracy.

Ott cautions that the work so far is only validated for hotel reviews, and for that matter, only reviews of hotels in Chicago. The next step, he said, is to see if the techniques can be extended to other categories, starting perhaps with restaurants and eventually moving to consumer products. He also wants to look at negative reviews.

“Ultimately, cutting down on deception helps everyone,” Ott says. “Customers need to be able to trust the reviews they read, and sellers need feedback on how best to improve their services.”

Review sites might use this kind of software as a “first-round filter,” Ott suggested. If one particular hotel gets a lot of reviews that score as deceptive, the site will know to investigate further.

Blaine Friedlander | Newswise Science News
Further information:

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>