BlackBerry has been accused of “astroturfing”, or artificially jacking up its reputation through fake reviews. But BlackBerry is quick to deny involvement.
One does not even have to be the Grammar Nazi to consider these Google Play reviews headache-inducing. “Thank you so much Blackberry team,” the review goes. “I was waiting this app. It is really great user friendly and smooth.”
“I was waiting this app” might just go down in history as the next best-remembered linguistic gaffe after the “All your base are belong to us” in-game translation of the 1980s.
Missing commas and absent prepositions aside, the biggest attention draw from this particular review is the sheer number of similar entries. A “whole bunch” of these reviews seems to have been astroturfed, says Lee Hutchinson on Ars Technica, referring to the practice of artificially masking a public relations campaign as a legitimate community-driven effort. However, the bad writing, repetitiveness and high ratings are a giveaway that something is amiss. 200,000 5-star reviews with the same wording is certainly not a normal thing.
A deeper look into the review threads comes up with what seems to be a gem: “Please post the following comment on the new BlackBerry Messenger Android APP. ‘Thank you so much black berry team…’,” says the text, followed by the same review text above. However, there is, of course, doubt as to the origin of this message.
BlackBerry is not exactly in the best position in the smartphone market today, having fast been overtaken by Android and iOS as mobile platforms. However, the company’s spinning-off of its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service to work on iOS and Android had been a much-anticipated and welcomed move. Reception has been mixed, so far, with many lauding the effort as potentially BlackBerry’s saving grace, but some criticizing it for being too little, too late. But are fake reviews going to improve the app’s standing?
BlackBerry has denied any involvement in the matter, saying it has “no knowledge of how the reviews were created or populated,” and that the company “does not approve of or condone such activities.”
Emil Protalinski commented, however, on The Next Web that this could have been a BlackBerry-sanctioned campaign gone wrong, and businesses have been known to artificially ramp up their credentials, or criticize their competitors’ products. Take for instance Samsung, which is today’s top Android device manufacturer. The company was fined for unfair business practices for slandering HTC.
Either way, users are encouraged to focus on using and reviewing BBM for what it is — a supposedly secure and private instant messaging service for various platforms that could potentially be the next best thing for BlackBerry after its wireless email pagers and QWERTY keypads.