Facebook staff to remove positive Portal device reviews from Amazon

18 Jan 2019

Facebook on mobile phone. Image: goglik83/Depositphotos

Facebook employees who left glowing reviews of the Portal video calling device will be asked to remove them, the company says.

Tech giant Facebook launched its first in-house hardware product, Portal, in October 2018. The device, which offers video calling and music streaming features, comes in two different sizes.

Originally, it was set to be revealed at its F8 conference earlier in 2018, but the Cambridge Analytica furore meant its debut was pushed back. With a competitive market and a difficult year in terms of company reputation, the first hardware device from Facebook probably made less of a splash than originally anticipated.

Facebook portal device on a kitchen counter, displaying a woman on a video call.

In-house reviews break Amazon rules

In recent days, New York Times journalist Kevin Roose noted that several of the positive reviews for the product on Amazon bore the same names as employees of Facebook.

In a tweet sent on Thursday (17 January), Roose said: “Reviewing your employer’s products is definitely against Amazon’s rules.”

Facebook clarifies matters

Andrew Bosworth, the company’s vice-president of augmented and virtual reality, quickly noted that the reviews left by staff members were not directed from the company, adding that the firm made its wishes clear at Portal’s launch. “We, unequivocally, DO NOT want Facebook employees to engage in leaving reviews of the products we sell to Amazon.” Bosworth said the employees would be directed to remove their reviews.

Roose found at least three out of approximately 100 five-star reviews of the Portal device on Amazon had names that matched specific employees at Facebook, from security engineering manager Oren Hafif to events marketer Javier Cubria.

According to The Verge, the reviews are listed as Verified Purchases, which means the staff may well just be happy with how the device performs. This still does not get around the rules at Amazon, which forbid “creating, modifying or posting content regarding your (or your relative’s, close friend’s, business associate’s or employer’s) products or services”.

Facebook on mobile phone. Image: goglik83/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects