Bullying in online reviews: investigating the reaction to extremely negative reviews

Bouaaphone, Souvantha
Waiguny, Martin
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

In online review websites, people exchange information about the products and services by posting an online review. People can read the information from posts as well as leave other reviews to interact and communicate with reviewers in the websites. This interaction allows people to exchange their opinion randomly. Because of this, online reviews become crucial for people and business. Many researches have been conducted to study the effects of online reviews. Some scholars pay attention to the style of the review including interpersonal tie, altruism or continuum and valence of emotion. However, there is little research available yet that sheds light on the extremely negative style of online reviews. This extremely negative style of review is a special form of bullying. The lack of research into bullying reviews is a gap that provides an opportunity to investigate how people react to an extremely negative review. The purpose of this research is to investigate the reaction of people on the extremely negative style of reviews (bullying). Thus a 2 size (power) of the victim (small local company vs. big international company) by 2 position of the bully (consumer profile (user) vs. expert profile) by 2 level of bullying (negative review vs. bullying review) is employed to investigate the research question. This research is approved by AUTEC and the ethics application number is 14/164 Negative bullying of brands in online reviews on 27 May 2014.
Our result illustrates that the bullying review is not accepted among audiences who consume the online review as a source of information. Moreover, when the reviewers write reviews in the bullying style, their trustworthiness and expertise level seems to be evaluated negatively. This maybe because the bullying style of review blocks the freedom of audiences in achieving their goals. The research also found evidence that people do not like to see the reviewer attack the weak victim such as a small company. Furthermore, it is even worse when the review is provided by a user. On the other hand, people like to see the reviewer harass a big international company. The big international company has a lot of employees, profit and market share. The reason why people like to see the big international company fail is because they feel envy about the big company. This feeling of envy is described by Schadenfreude notion from psychology. It is a feeling of misfortune of others. The power position of bullies is also taken into account as audiences do not accept the bullying review from a user. Moreover, it is even worse when the user uses the bullying review to attack a weak company. This is conducive to a less positive acceptance; of trust and trustworthiness. Even if the bullying review is written by an expert who has high credibility, the dissimilarity between the audience and the expert can cause the bullying review to be rejected (Naylor et al., 2011). In conclusion, the power position of bullies (expert vs. user), and power position of victims (small local company vs. big international company) moderates the main effect of bullying mainly on three variables which are acceptance of review, trust and trustworthiness of reviewer.

Bullying , Online , Reviews , Reaction , Extremely , Negative , Investigating
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