As a user, I expect user ratings and reviews (on shops like Amazon or review sites like IMDb) to provide an independent information about a product. I'm aware reviews could still be biased (e.g. people who are unhappy with a product could leave a review more often than happy customers) but generally I expect some degree of integrity, in the sense that reviews are not manipulated intentionally. But what exactly should I expect from the legal point of view?
Practically, is a company publishing user-generated reviews allowed to manipulate user ratings (e.g. by removing negative or positive reviews) if:
- the company decides a product received an unfair rating (e.g. suspected vote rigging)
- the company expresses their own option of a product, without financial incentive (e.g. the company owner prefers cats over dogs, so cat-themed products get better ratings)
- the company promotes a product in exchange for a reward (e.g. the seller could pay to have negative reviews removed)
What US laws would such actions violate, if any?