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BLOG: Samsung paying students for 'fake Web reviews' -- did it attack Apple, too?

Jonny Evans | April 18, 2013
Samsung is alleged to have hired students to slam phones made by HTC. Fair trade officials in Taiwan have launched an investigation into the company.

Given Samsung's evident desire to paint this online campaign against HTC as a single "unfortunate" incident, it would be most surprising to see the firm come out and admit to other incidences of this devious form of false flag advertising.

There is no way I can claim or prove any connection between Samsung's marketing activity against HTC in Taiwan and comments against other manufacturers posted outside of that country. However, Samsung's admission of complicity within this case sure makes it extraordinarily easy to think it possible it has been paying people to engage in online attacks against all its competitors.

That's not to say all critics are paid, they are not. I'm not prepared to use Samsung's actions as an attempt to deny people their right to opinion -- Apple isn't for everyone and there's inevitably going to be people who feel sufficiently strongly about the company and its products that they want to criticize. That's good feedback for Apple.

However, I do hope that many Apple critics and Apple fans might agree with me that, in lowering itself to pay people to mount anonymous online attacks against at least one competitor, Samsung has shown a degree of unpalatable cynicism and ruthlessness.

Shame on you

All its competitors could now assume the firm will stop at nothing to achieve the market share it craves, while reducing the principles of "innovation" to being nothing more than the same device being made available in a dizzying array of display sizes.

If Samsung were an actual human child and I were its teacher, I'd wag my fingers, stare hard and say: "Samsung, you've let me down, you've let everyone on the Internet down, you've let the principles of fair competition down. I'm very disappointed and a little bit cross." And I'd send the scolded child home to bed without dinner.

Back here in the real world, if I were a Samsung competitor: Apple, RIM, Microsoft, HTC, Sony, or anybody else, I'd now be making contact withTaiwan's Fair Trade Commission to ask that the investigation should explore just how far this online campaign extended, asking such questions as:

  • Was it global?
  • Was it just against HTC, or did the company mount a similar dirty tricks campaign against other competitors?
  • How extensive and how long-lived was this campaign or campaigns?
  • Where did the criticisms come from? Were they generated by people involved in Samsung's own marketing teams and then passed to commenters for distribution online?
  • Just how implicated were Samsung's senior management in the case?
  • Where did the money come from?
  • Who handled the budget?
  • Who signed the cheques?

These questions are all very relevant to any firm engaged in competition against the company. Meanwhile, for consumers, the conclusion has to be that those user-submitted reviews for Samsung's products must now be seen as unreliable in their authenticity.


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