If you visit the Facebook Portal listing over at Amazon.com, you’ll find plenty of five-star reviews of the smart display product. However, what you might not know is that a small handful of those glowing reviews are actually from Facebook employees.
That’s what Kevin Roose — tech columnist for The New York Times — exposed on Twitter earlier today. Roose didn’t use any secret trickery to find the clearly-biased reviews, he simply checked the names: three prominent Facebook employees used their own, full names to review the product.
Not only is it a violation of Amazon’s TOS for a company employee to write reviews for its own products, but it also makes Facebook look a bit desperate. After all, it’s not easy to sell a product designed to sit in your home with a camera attached to it when the company is constantly in the news for data and privacy violations.
To that end, Facebook’s vice president of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth tweeted back to Roose:
[These reviews were] neither coordinated nor directed from the company. From an internal post at the launch: “We, unequivocally, DO NOT want Facebook employees to engage in leaving reviews for the products that we sell to Amazon.” We will ask them to take down.”
Facebook Portal and its larger sibling Portal Plus are designed to act as an Alexa-powered smart speaker, a video-consumption device, as well as an easy way to have video chats through Facebook Messenger. Although you can easily turn the cameras and microphones off, Portal has had an uphill battle from the beginning since several Facebook privacy and security scandals have dominated headlines over the past year.
The Google Home Hub — another smart display released in 2018 — does not feature a camera.
Click the button below to buy a Facebook Portal — if you’re into that sort of thing.