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Algorithm Bias & Gaming

workshop materials (fall 2020)


Elliott, Justin. “TurboTax Deliberately Hid Its Free File Page From Search Engines.ProPublica.

  • hides a free file program from Google search results with the use of code
  • many taxpayers are eligible for free filing but very few use this service
  • Intuit (TurboTax) was not the only offender

While the above is an example of a company trying to hide the availability of a service, most businesses are trying to draw more attention to services and products.  Now onto algorithm gaming.  We will explore Amazon reviews as an example. 

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Episode #124 "The Magic Store" (12 July 2018) from Reply All, a podcast about the Internet

Listen 23:34 to 12:51 (~10 min.)


  1. How did someone try to increase the demand for their organic wool dryer balls in Amazon's search results?
  2. What is another way in which review ratings might be inflated?
  3. What is Amazon's policy on paid reviews?
  4. What does GlueBoy suggest is a sure sign of a fake review?
  5. How many Amazon reviews are suspicious according to Amazon in contrast to Elizabeth Dwoskin (journalist)?

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News Reporting:

Dwoskin, Elizabeth, and Craig Timberg. “How Merchants Use Facebook to Flood Amazon with Fake Reviews.” Washington Post. 23 April 2018.

Nguyen, Nicole. “Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy.” BuzzFeed News. 7 May 2018.