It’s a crime story fit for the digital era. It was recently reported that a number of restaurants in New York had been targeted by internet scammers threatening to leave unfavourable “one-star” reviews unless they received gift certificates. The same threats were made to eateries in Chicago and San Francisco and it appears that a vegan restaurant received as many as eight one-star reviews in the space of a week before being approached for money.
It’s surprising this sort of thing hasn’t emerged before. An over-reliance on the “wisdom of the crowd”, whereby many people measure things by the approval of the rest of the community, leaves us vulnerable to this kind of fraud.
It’s all about numbers. Products and companies are measured online by the number of stars they get on a five-star scale, influencers are measured by numbers of followers, posts are measured by the numbers of likes or retweets. The satirical Kardashian index provides a quantitative measure for academics by comparing citations of their research papers with their number of Twitter followers.
But why are these systems considered to be of value and why do we consult them almost blindly? In an age of information overload, feedback and reputation systems enable fast decision-making, providing us with the…