42% of consumers fear brands’ censorship of online reviews is endangering free speech

A study from Trustpilot, has revealed an alarming distrust among UK consumers when it comes to brands removing or censoring legitimate consumer reviews across the internet, with four-in-ten (42%) saying they are very concerned about their freedom of speech.

The Critical role of reviews in Internet Trust report into the state of online trust highlights consumers’ concerns that online reviews are being tampered with by brands (71%) and that this is causing them to waste money they can’t afford to (45%). 

While the findings show that consumers are increasingly reliant on customer reviews - with nine-in-ten (90%) saying they read reviews before buying online, and the average consumer spending £433 each year on purchases that were influenced or informed by an online review – they are also wary of their legitimate feedback being manipulated by companies. 

In fact, 47% of consumers said they believe that companies are manipulating their image by creating fake reviews online, while a further 40% believe they are doing so by deleting negative reviews.  

Peter Mühlmann, founder and CEO Trustpilot said: “The research is a clear sign that consumers are very aware of being manipulated in this era of fake news and distrust in institutions. When it comes to their interactions with companies online, they want to know that their feedback is being heard, and that this feedback is helping other consumers to see the full picture of a brand - the good, the bad and the in-between. 

“Reviews are core to helping consumers navigate this complex ecommerce landscape, but there must be more transparency and explanation about how different platforms operate, including how they moderate, filter, flag, publish or remove reviews. Only then will consumers be able to feel confident they’re making informed purchasing decisions. 

“At the end of the day, companies must remember that customer feedback helps them to improve. It keeps them honest. It raises the bar. And it helps them to do a better job tomorrow than they did today.”

Consumer review websites ranked second for trust and third for their perception of providing honest product and service reviews; only family and friends rank higher in both categories. Reflecting this demand for a more transparent, honest review process, the research also showed that six-in-ten consumers (60%) say they’d stop using platforms if they knew that they were censoring reviews.

About the research

The research was carried out in December 2019 by Canvas8 with 2,000 respondents in the UK, 2,000 in France and 2,000 in the US, and also includes qualitative research and insights from leading global academics. 

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