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Steam alters user review system to combat spamming

Steam alters user review system to combat spamming

November 21, 2017 | By Chris Kerr

Steam has made more changes to its user review system to address some common concerns, namely that of review spamming. 

As it stands, over 36 million Steam user reviews have been posted by players, and it's down to the Steam community to sort the wheat from the chaff by marking reviews as 'helpful' or 'not helpful.' 

Up to now, those reviews branded the most helpful would be highlighted on their respective game pages. On paper, it's a sensible system, but it's one that relies heavily on the honesty of users. 

And while most have been using the system as intended, a small fraction have been incorrectly rating reviews to flood game pages with positive or negative feedback. It's an exploit that means games with an overall positive rating can have a page packed with negative reviews (and vice versa). 

"Of the 11 million people that have used the helpful buttons, most follow a reasonable pattern of usage. However, we found a small set of users on the far extreme that are clearly trying to accomplish something quite different from normal players, and are rating more than 10,000 reviews as helpful or unhelpful on a single game," reads the Steam blog.

"This behavior is not only humanly impossible, but definitely not a thoughtful indication of how 'helpful' each of those reviews were. These users also tend to rate up just the negative reviews while rating down the positive reviews in an attempt to distort which reviews are shown by default. 

"Because of how many reviews these users are rating, they each have a disproportionate amount of influence over the display of helpful reviews and cause certain reviews to appear more prominently than they should be."

Steam intends to tackle the issue head-on by counting the helpful ratings on reviews differently for accounts that are far outside the norm. That means if someone has rated an excessive number of reviews on a single game, they'll start to see the weight of each individual review count for less and less. 

Beyond that, the proportion of helpful positive and negative reviews shown on store pages will now reflect a game's overall review score. For instance, if a game is reviewed positively by 80 percent of users, then out of the ten reviews shown, eight will be positive.

Both of those changes are being rolled out today as part of a beta, and Steam hopes they'll make it harder for "determined" players to manipulate feedback.

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