John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Can you trust online comments?

“Taken together, these results indicate that third-party online commentary not only influences individuals’ attitudes regarding the specific target of others’ comments, but it also influences individuals’ perceptions on the attitudes of the general online community (A Networked Self, Papacharissi, 2011).”  This quote points out that people can be influenced by other people or a group of people’s comments in online communities.
A general statement is made about a business or someone then other people jump on the band wagon and support what is the most popular or the most negative opinion.  How do we know if comments made on a social networking site are legit?

An example of this is Yelp, which is a social networking, user review, and local search web site.  People can go online and rate a business which can hurt or help.  Here is what one advertiser experienced on Yelp according to a recent CNET article:
“One Yelp advertiser who asked to remain anonymous told CNET News that in his dealings with Yelp over the past few years, he had never been promised that his reviews would be manipulated. To the contrary…despite paying $750 a month for advertising services, he said, the site’s refusal to remove several negative reviews that he felt were fake pushed his business from the top ranking to No. 7 in the search results, costing him a 25 percent drop in revenue (CNET,, 2009).”

Since people’s attitudes and comments influence other people online, this can have a dramatic effect on a business as we have seen in the above example.  It is unbelievable that someone can pay Yelp $750 a month for advertising and have manipulated reviews posted on the site which hurts the company’s online ranking.  Plus, Yelp allows people to connect and share using there Facebook accounts which means that fake comments about a business on Yelp can spread to other social networking sites.  The difficult part now is that this business will have to spend valuable resources on trying to makeup for the 25% drop in revenue due to these negative fake reviews.


Another example, is a dentist whose patients posted positive reviews about his clinic,
only to have them filtered out. He has over 2,000 patients and every other week one of
them writes a positive review on Yelp and none of them stay (New York Times, 2011).
According to the same New York Times article, people are paid a fee to post a positive comment about a company and others will post a negative review about their rivals on Yelp.

The problem is that the online submissions to Yelp cannot be trusted, since reputable or non reputable comments are filtered out or not by Yelp’s algorithm.  This can hurt a business and with Yelp’s filter algorihm’s not being that effective it is hurting Yelp’s reputation as well.  This can have an influence on what people think about Yelp and if the current trend continues, Yelp could be seen as a non reputable social networking site.  What does this mean for other social networking sites and could such comments on networking sites hurt a social networking site’s reputation?


Economic conditions can force people to take extreme measures. In the book called Transmission, by Hari Kunzru, Arjun gets hired on as a virus technician who gets sub contracted out by another company and is getting paid next to nothing. He tells his family that he is the head of his department and this is were the trouble starts. When Arjun made this decision, it then affected everyone else around him.

Chris, Guy, Lila and others were affected by Arjun’s choice of trying to make it big in America. Instead of swallowing his pride and going back home, he unleashes a computer virus which causes chaos around the world. This computer virus then has an effect on all of the people Arjun knows or does not know. From this, Arjun is actually the virus spreading his self centered attitude around the world and affecting other people’s lives.

Arjun’s virus Lila version 8, messes up EU’s information databases and confuses Guy swift with a known white colored criminal who gets deported. This is similar to today’s viruses who not only rearrange data but also steal credit card and Social Security numbers which can hurt people’s identity’s. We see the damage that such viruses can cause in a world that is dependent on computers for almost everything.

A computer virus spreads like a virus except we do not see what is really spreading behind such malicious code. When computer viruses are released into the wild, human attitudes and emotions are the real viruses getting released onto these computer systems. Guilt, despair, greed, pleasure, revenge, and pain are a few of these human attitudes that get spread when a computer virus goes viral. Looking at this story, Arjun’s desperation and pain gets unleashed on an unsuspecting world which has an effect on everyone around the world. We should ask ourselves the question of “what outcome or effect will our content have on other people when it is released onto the internet?”