Originally Posted by Catlady
I'd also like to know where there is any proof of traditional publishers buying reviews or doing anything comparable to what Locke did.
There is none as it has not happened on a similar scale. Certainly there are instances of "literary payola" but only on a minor scale. The checks and balances that are inherent in the existing print media world are missing from self published eBooks. In the print world reviews cannot be bought in any form that would fool the public as almost every publication has its own review section. Many of the reviewers in the smaller media organisations might tend to follow the lead of the "big guns" in the industry, but there are always those who would delight in shining a light on any perceived bias from such sources. Online we don't have the ability to source the reviews, we don't know who the reviewers are - with very few exceptions. It is unusual to find - in the real world - rave reviews from the New York Times coupled with scathing reviews from the London Times or similar. Online we have this constantly.
Another issue is that in many jurisdictions buying positive reviews is illegal and can attract heavy fines and in some cases criminal charges. Here, (Australia) there are very severe penalties for using "False and misleading advertising" in an attempt to generate sales. The same thing has happened in the US with convictions for "Payola" resulting in many millions of dollars in fines for those involved.
No, regardless of the opinions of some here, what Locke has done is not simply an online version of a common practice.
Amazon removed many of his reviews recently, they are apparently not risking charges of being involved in or accepting of Payola. They have only removed those reviews known to have come from those involved in the NYT article. There are still many that are suspect but not openly known to be purchased.
Many phony reviews come from an organisation called "freelancer.com" another pay for review source that was not mentioned by the NYT. I still have copies of the Freelancer ads asking for people to review Amazon books - fifty at a time. They specify that each review must include a purchase, for which the reviewer will be reimbursed independently of payment for the reviews.