Reviews are a kind of currency online. They are a measure of trustworthiness in a vast world of complete strangers begging you to part with your cash. Ideally, if an e-commerce site or online seller delivers decent customer service and quality goods, reviews pay out “dividends” in both sales and reputation. But this feature of the internet, a mainstay of e-commerce even, may be on the decline as the depth of fraudulent reviews is becoming evident. 

At the turn of the century people tended to source their reviews from dedicated sites such as Epinions.com and Rateitall. The former was a general consumer review site started in 1999. It outlasted the majority of its competitors, creating a repository of millions of reviews, and — in a very meta way — offering a system for reviewing reviews through user voting. It went through several ownership shifts, ending up in the hands of eBay before closing down submissions and edits in 2014...

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