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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:05 AM   #1
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Federal Trade Commission Settles Charges Over Fake App Store Reviews






According to The New York Times, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled a case it brought against California-based public relations firm Reverb Communications for writing paid reviews of App Store games from their clients. The firm's actions had been profiled by MobileCrunch last August after receiving a tip about its practices.
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The Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday that a California marketing company had settled charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by having its employees write and post positive reviews of clients' games in the Apple iTunes Store, without disclosing that they were being paid to do so.

The charges were the first to be brought under a new set of guidelines for Internet endorsements that the agency introduced last year. The guidelines have often been described as rules for bloggers, but they also cover anyone writing reviews on Web sites or promoting products through Facebook or Twitter.
While the settlement did not involve any monetary penalties, Reverb is required to remove all of its paid reviews and to refrain from making similar endorsements in the future without disclosing its relationships with companies whose products it is promoting.

Reverb apparently continues to believe that it did nothing wrong, calling the charges a "frivolous matter" while noting that it settled the case without financial penalty or admission of lawbreaking so that it would not have to devote time and money to defending itself.

Article Link: Federal Trade Commission Settles Charges Over Fake App Store Reviews
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:11 AM   #2
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How is this newsworthy?
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:16 AM   #3
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Brilliant...

A PR firm that can't handle their own PR. Did they let all of their 20-somethings go this morning?
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:17 AM   #4
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What a crap company. I'll remember to avoid their client's software.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:30 AM   #5
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Reverb = Fraud = Scam.

Got it. Move on.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:35 AM   #6
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newsworthy? Actually it is pretty relevant...

Quote:
Originally Posted by h1r0ll3r View Post
How is this newsworthy?
...given that there are probably quite a few hired hands posting here in the MR forums. Think all the anti-apple dreck is just being spewed by blind hatred? Money is always a more lasting motivator than hate.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:38 AM   #7
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It is easy to spot fake reviews in the App store.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:40 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ten-oak-druid View Post
What a crap company. I'll remember to avoid their client's software.
Same, yet another company to avoid .

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Originally Posted by mlblacy View Post
...given that there are probably quite a few hired hands posting here in the MR forums. Think all the anti-apple dreck is just being spewed by blind hatred? Money is always a more lasting motivator than hate.
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You really think that don't you? I don't like the iPhone 4, the iPad or Apple's recent behaviour... do you think I'm getting paid to say that?
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:41 AM   #9
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Hummm... this seems more like a business value or moral issue more than a legal issue. Fake reviews aren't cool, but you see them everywhere.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:43 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlblacy View Post
...given that there are probably quite a few hired hands posting here in the MR forums. Think all the anti-apple dreck is just being spewed by blind hatred? Money is always a more lasting motivator than hate.
cheers,
michael
I'm not so sure the "anti-PR" drones hang out here.... why? The average consumer is not here, only devoted Apple fans and trolls who like to stir the pot and just cause trouble.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:44 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by mlblacy View Post
...given that there are probably quite a few hired hands posting here in the MR forums. Think all the anti-apple dreck is just being spewed by blind hatred? Money is always a more lasting motivator than hate.
cheers,
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I heard this story break awhile back and I was keeping my eyes open for more on it. I'm glad MR followed up.

I too wonder about all the new anti-apple crap around here lately.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:47 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by roland.g View Post
Reverb = Fraud = Scam.

Got it. Move on.
They took a new generation of payola and was busted. This is not the only outfit doing this. Notice there are very few if any, well named reviewers for software? There is an opportunity for someone to build up a good rep, tap their magic wand on an app and just their world will have it sell big time.

IMO, no one has made it to that level without being enticed with publisher money. A good reviewer will be more than just out of college and hitting every bar and club you can think of trying to find personal and professional action.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:50 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Popeye206 View Post
I'm not so sure the "anti-PR" drones hang out here.... why? The average consumer is not here, only devoted Apple fans and trolls who like to stir the pot and just cause trouble.
They're here, be sure of that.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:51 AM   #14
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Outrageous. Anybody for a class action suit for false advertising?
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 10:55 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dagless View Post
Same, yet another company to avoid .


You really think that don't you? I don't like the iPhone 4, the iPad or Apple's recent behaviour... do you think I'm getting paid to say that?
But you put it forth in an intellegent way. Others are foaming at the mouth to bad mouth. There's a difference. There sure is a lot of it in a short amount of time. But it is hard to believe with so many Apple fans here that already own Apple products. They don't have enough to gain. How many people come here before they buy an Apple product (actually I did), so your probably right.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:03 AM   #16
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They aren't the only company doing it.

I've gotten 3 or 4 emails from companies selling fake reviews as a service. (which I just ignored)
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:04 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Popeye206 View Post
Hummm... this seems more like a business value or moral issue more than a legal issue. Fake reviews aren't cool, but you see them everywhere.
To me, it seems to be straightforward fraud. The definition of fraud is that someone makes me believe something which is not true, in order to get my money or similar things. If they intentionally write false reviews to make me believe that their games are worth buying and that is not true, and I buy a game because of this fake review, that is clear fraud to me.

(Note there is a difference when the game maker describes their game in the best possible light. If I _know_ where the description comes from, then I _know_ what they are up to, and correct my expectations accordingly because I expect a biased review. But if I read a review from someone who I believe is an ordinary customer, then I expect no bias. )

I'd say Apple should change their store rules. Allow the maker of an app or their PR agency to present all the reasons why you should buy their wares, as long as it is very clearly visible who wrote this, allow them to respond to bad (or good reviews) but throw out any apps where there is evidence that the company submitted their own reviews pretending they come from customers.

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Originally Posted by VulchR View Post
Outrageous. Anybody for a class action suit for false advertising?
It's not false advertising, it is worse. With false advertising, at least you know that it is advertising.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:08 AM   #18
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:16 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by h1r0ll3r View Post
How is this newsworthy?
It's newsworthy in that it confirms the useless nature of anonymous user reviews. Not only do the software developers plant fake reviews of their products but fanboys and haters do the same. Go to Cnet user reviews sometime and see how many reviews show up for a product that hasn't even been released yet. When the iPhone was announced in 2007 there were already hundreds of neagtive "user" reviews before the device even shipped.

The same applies to troubleshooting web sites. It's not about finding out what's really happening. It's about fanboys and haters duking it out for spin points. Prime example of this was "antennagate".

In short this article should serve as proof that using user reviews of any product to make buying decisions is pure folly. Even so-called professionals have biases and agendas, Dan Lyons and Walt Mossberg being two examples.

When evaluating a product talk to people you actually know and trust, not some anonymous screwball on Cnet who says the iPad is useless in his "user" review.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:26 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Dagless View Post
Same, yet another company to avoid .


You really think that don't you? I don't like the iPhone 4, the iPad or Apple's recent behaviour... do you think I'm getting paid to say that?
Maybe, maybe not. Nobody knows. You are anonymous. Maybe you just like to spout contrary opinions and like to argue that the sky is red because everybody else thinks it's blue. Maybe someone IS paying you to post negative opinions. Maybe you own an iPhone or an iPad or maybe you don't. Why should anyone trust what you say or accept your opinion? Not just you, of course, but all of us. If I knew you personally I might give more weight to your opinions but I don't know you so I have no reason to believe anything you post. Nor do you have any reason to believe me. That's the over riding problem with the internet and its anonymous nature.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:26 AM   #21
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The FTC is only concerned with commercial astroturfing. You can't pay someone (including employees) to do it .

But a developer still has to round up all their friends and family and let them know what kind of stuff will "accidentally" get sent to Santa or posted on their facebook page (etc.) if they do or don't download your app and give it 5 star ratings and reviews. They're forced to do this to counteract bored kids randomly downloading free apps just to give them 1-star, and competitors doing the same with paid apps. Thus, this FTC ruling will also screw unlucky developers who have no friends or family.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:41 AM   #22
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This is newsworthy because everyone is interested in credible, relevant apps. Looking at the mobile crunch write-up a lot of manipulating has occurred with some pretty serious apps.

If Reverb Communications was making money acting as an agent to make fake reviews for these companies then a financial penalty should have been imposed particularly as they still think they did nothing wrong.

Reverb I dare you to comment in this thread telling us we're all wrong.
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:48 AM   #23
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Is this MacRumors.com or my (very) local news affilliate?
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:48 AM   #24
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and there is a difference between a disgruntled customer...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jethrotoe View Post
But you put it forth in an intellegent way. Others are foaming at the mouth to bad mouth. There's a difference. There sure is a lot of it in a short amount of time. But it is hard to believe with so many Apple fans here that already own Apple products. They don't have enough to gain. How many people come here before they buy an Apple product (actually I did), so your probably right.
and a troll. I used to "not" think that, but you only have to look an ANY of the MR forums these days and start to wonder what has changed. Guerrilla marketing efforts (and that is putting it kindly) is big business these days, and are used for (and against) companies that are a lot larger than Apple. Apple is at the top of the heap in quite a few niches, and Apple has always engendered a lot of animosity from the "pc" folks. I experienced it directly for years from my previous employers IT department, they were hostile, non-supportive, and simply wanted one thing... to replace our computers with pc's instead of Macs (and we were a publishing operation, and at that time macs were THE only real choice in our business).

The old motto of "don't feed the troll" doesn't seem to work here any more. There are either a lot more of them, or they have a lot more aliases. I wish we had some sort of crowd control (meaning troll control, lol) here, like quite a few other sites. Even the way more Apple-unfriendly sites have them. While I am sensitive towards differences of opinion, and having an open discussion with varying viewpoints, many of these malcontents have no interest in adding to the discussion, they want to hijack it, or end it altogether... or they want to shape public opinion among the forum readers. And that is exactly what they are doing... read among the threads for the voices of the confused, who are needlessly worried over non-existent defects and are afraid to go ahead with their purchases.

Fortunately, these folks are usually not subtle, and are easily spotted by their non-existent posting history... or worse their posting history where each post has the same angle, and the same message. Apple sucks, they cheat you, they make crap... etc. etc.

Folks come here, or used to, to share their experiences, and to resolve legitimate problems, or to help those who have problems (which exist with every product, no matter who manufactures it).

Perhaps I have become overly cynical, but yes... I really think that. I also am a bit saddened by the state of the online community here. This used to be more of a safe haven, away from the trolls. I can get that at Ars, Gizmodo, Engadget, etc...
cheers,
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Old Aug 27, 2010, 11:49 AM   #25
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I just want to know when Apple is going to start paying me for all my good reviews and people I convert
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