AI trained on Yelp data writes fake restaurant reviews ‘indistinguishable’ from real deal

‘Omgggg! Very flavorful! It was so delicious that I didn’t spell it!!’

How much do you trust the reviews you read online? Probably not a lot, right? You know, like most people, that glowing write-ups and five-star ratings can be easily bought. And you might even think you’re pretty good at spotting the difference between fake reviews and real ones. But how well would you fare against reviews written by AI?

As first reported by Business Insider, researchers from the University of Chicago have trained a neural network that can churn out convincing fake reviews. Their research, which will be presented at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security this October, points to a future where the online review system is not just hit and miss, but completely broken. Because although it’s one thing to be able to buy fake reviews from humans online; it’s another when the process can be completely automated, with AI bots churning out super realistic write-ups on Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and everywhere else you look.

Not convinced? Take a look at this trio of five-star reviews of the same restaurant in NYC, and see if you can spot the real deal:

1. “I love this place. I have been going here for years and it is a great place to hang out with friends and family. I love the food and service. I have never had a bad experience when I am there.”

2. “I had the grilled veggie burger with fries!!!! Ohhhh and taste. Omgggg! Very flavorful! It was so delicious that I didn’t spell it!!”

3. “My family and I are huge fans of this place. The staff is super nice and the food is great. The chicken is very good and the garlic sauce is perfect. Ice cream topped with fruit is delicious too. Highly recommended!”

The answer: one, two, and three are all fake. They’re the result of a neural network trained on millions of real reviews taken from Yelp.