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FTC brings its first case against fake paid reviews on Amazon – TechCrunch

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The Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday evening that it has brought its first case against using fake reviews to sell products online. The Commission said it will settle with defendant Cure Encapsulations Inc., a New York City-based company, and owner Naftula Jacobwitz, who it accused of making false claims about a weight loss supplement and paying a third-party website to post fake reviews on Amazon.

Fake reviews are a constant nuisance for Amazon shoppers, despite algorithms designed to safeguard its review system, and the company has hit back with a series of lawsuits against websites that offer to post fake verified reviews.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Cure Encapsulations sold pills with garcinia cambogia, a tropical fruit also called brindleberry that is sometimes used as a “natural” weight loss aid. Called Quality Encapsulations Garcinia Cambogia, the pills were sold only on Amazon. Jacobwitz paid a website called www.amazonverifiedreviews.com to post favorable reviews in order to boost its rating.

An exhibit from the FTC’s complaint against Cure Encapsulations Inc.

On October 8, 2014, Jacobowitz sent an email to the site’s operator saying he’d pay a total of $1,000 for 30 reviews, three per day, with the goal of increasing its 4.2 rating to 4.3, which he claimed was necessary in order to have sales. He also wrote that he wanted the product to “stay a five star.” Www.amazonverifiedreviews.com then posted a series of fake five-star reviews praising the pills. The FTC said the reviews made false claims, including that the pills were a powerful appetite suppressant, caused weight loss of up to 20 pounds, and blocked the formation of new fat cells.

The proposed settlement includes a judgement of $12.8 million, to be suspended upon payment of $50,000 to the FTC and certain unpaid income tax obligations. The settlement also bans Cure Encapsulations and Jacobwitz from making weight-loss, fat-blocking, or disease-treatment claims for dietary supplements, food, or drugs, unless they have reliable scientific evidence from clinical trials in humans. They are also prohibited from making misrepresentations about endorsements, including fake reviews, and must tell Amazon which reviews were faked and email customers who have bought the pills to give them information about FTC’s allegations.

In press release, Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “When a company buys fake reviews to inflate its Amazon ratings, it hurts both shoppers and companies that play by the rules.”

In a statement to The Verge, an Amazon spokesperson said “We welcome the FTC’s work in this area. Amazon invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers. Even one inauthentic review is one too many. We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban, and take legal action on those who violate our policies.”

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Today’s Wordle Answer #537 – December 8, 2022 Solution And Hints

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The solution to today’s Wordle puzzle (#537 – December 8, 2022) is infer. It’s from Middle French “inferer,” itself from Latin inferre, which literally means “to carry or bring into” (via Merriam-Webster).

Like yesterday, we were lucky enough to solve the puzzle in only three tries today. Our opening guess, banjo, beat down the number of possible answers from the standard 2,315 to 174. The next guess, inked, further shrunk the pool to just six possible answers, and after that, we made a lucky third guess.

WordleBot solved the puzzle in just as many tries, although its approach was slightly different: as usual, its first guess was the recommended starting word, slate. It followed that with the word diner, and then it hit the home run on the third try. We hope you have even better luck, but if you don’t find this article early enough to solve the puzzle on time, here are other games like Wordle to try.

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Amazon Sued Over Allegedly Stealing Tips From Delivery Drivers

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Per AG Racine, in 2016 Amazon instituted a new payment strategy whereby, rather than adding customer tips to a Flex driver’s overall compensation, the company used it to pay wages the driver had already earned. That allowed Amazon, in effect, to pocket the difference, treating the tips as company profits and using them to drive down costs rather than giving workers what they’d earned.

That’s only the prosecutorial side of the story, of course. At the same time, Amazon definitely has a difficult position going into the case – they quietly reimbursed drivers for tips stolen in this manner as part of a settlement with the FTC (via FTC). AG Racine’s allegation, therefore, is less whether Amazon did or did not stiff its Flex drivers – as a matter of record, they did. The issue is whether they have unlawfully escaped punishment for doing so.

That said, past failings do not equal present wrongdoing. The question of what penalties the world’s largest retailer should suffer for its failures and who is entitled to enforce them depends on the legal system, and the legal system has not yet rendered a verdict.

For now, Amazon itself has remained silent on AG Racine’s accusation, as it generally has in cases where the facts are not absolutely damning. As the case proceeds, Amazon’s legal team will no doubt have a great deal to say.

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A Beautiful But Shallow Next-Gen Racer

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While “Heat” took place in a coastal Miami-like city, “Unbound” moves to Lakeshore, an obvious proxy for Chicago. The downtown area of the map looks gorgeous, especially at night. Lit skyscrapers make up your horizon, and painted lanterns add characteristic flavor to the Chinatown area. 

Occasionally, you’ll catch a beautiful sunset over Lakeshore’s harbor. It all blends perfectly with the Frostbite engine’s advanced lighting, and the presentation is wonderful. Forested areas, rock quarries, and driveable rain gutters add some more variety to the city’s outskirts.

In a gameplay context, the Lakeshore map isn’t very large, and this isn’t necessarily a problem. For instance, Criterion’s own “Burnout Paradise” crams a ton of action into its Paradise City map which would be considered tiny nowadays. However, Lakeshore doesn’t live up to that standard. Despite being small, it lacks variance in gameplay, and fairly recent titles like “The Crew 2” manage to outclass it in both map size and density.

There’s very little verticality while driving. I would’ve liked to see some under-construction skyscrapers that allow the player to drive up and through them, plus more opportunities for jumps. The rain gutter areas are some of the only places it felt like the designers really got creative. The environment in Unbound is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen, but the gameplay underneath is actually quite bland and by the numbers. It’s like cutting into an expensive multi-tiered cake only to realize that the batter underneath is dry and unflavored.

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