KwikChex research finds widespread abuse, errors and inconsistencies in online reputation checking.
When KwikChex started out, it was with the mission to provide a simple means for the public to be able to distinguish between the best businesses and websites and at the other end of the scale, the ones to be avoided. As we near the full launch of the online facility that will help to make this happen though, we have identified a whole raft of concerns that are confusing millions of web users and consumers.
Sites such as Web Of Trust, (www.mywot.com), Ripoff Report (www.ripoffreport.com) and Complaints.com (www,.complaints.com) whilst founded with good intentions are rife with unverified postings that on the one hand can cause unjustified damage to the reputation of a respected business and on the other can be used to bolster businesses that most people should avoid.
Examples discovered included what appeared to be 'red ratings' (notification of a site with a poor reputation) or 'orange ratings' (caution advised / some concerns) from the Web of Trust system that included companies such as Microsoft, PayPal, Vodafone, O2, Sainsbury's Bank and First Direct - and even perceived guardians of the IT world such as Verisign and McAfee suffered such ratings. The reality though is that the ratings displayed were not for these businesses, but for internet advertising / pay per click sites - the ratings had been wrongly applied within the system.
These well known companies also take a battering on sites such as Complaints.com and Ripoff Reports.com. For example,there are hundreds of references to Microsoft on these sites and whilst it is to be expected that such large companies will have some dissatisfied customers, many posters on these sites go far beyond service issues and are making accusations that include fraud, theft and virus installation.
In addition, the research showed that some sectors were being particularly badly affected, such as online gambling. Whatever the opinion of people regarding companies that make a living from gambling, it is still a shock to see publicly traded businesses such as William Hill and 888 being accused of fraud, malware distribution, spamming and more. In this case, these are not even system errors - they are the ratings actually given because of postings on such sites. 888.com, owned by 888 Holdings PLC is given red ratings by Web Of Trust and by McAfee Site Advisor - and are attacked and accused on numerous other sites and blogs. Much of this is the result of gambling companies not explaining about the software they are using and the use of pop ups and email marketing, so more effort is certainly required from the industry to correct its online image.
KwikChex discovered that there are many thousands of smaller companies being maligned this way - and the evidence suggests that some of them may be being attacked by competitors posing as customers.
The other side to the misinformation being circulated is that there are rogue operators that are using ratings websites, Google sponsored links and blogs to give themselves 'clean ratings'
With recent further compromises of hackers injecting malware on to prestige trusted sites, such as The New York Times, the Singapore Foreign Exchange Market and even government sites,such circumstances are capable of creating extensive confusion and increased concerns amongst the general public and as a result of the research, KwikChex is strengthening its own verification systems and working with members and key partners to improve online integrity and safety.