Samsung admits paying students to lambast rival phones in fake web reviews

By , Apr 17, 2013

samsung-logo-with-google

How low could Samsung go? Apparently as low as hiring students to post fake web reviews that criticize phones by rival HTC. The Seoul, South Korea-headquartered conglomerate is now being probed by fair-trade officials in Taiwan over the scandalous accusations, BBC News reported Thursday.

Samsung on its part confirmed the “unfortunate incident,” arguing it had gone against its “fundamental principles.” The inevitable question arises: are some of those pro-Android thread commentators we see on iDB and many other Apple-focused publications also being paid to pooh-pooh Apple, regardless of the article being discussed?

That’s the conjecture offered by my former boss and Geek.com founder Jonny Evans.

He wrote in today’s post over at Computerworld that Samsung talking “fundamental principles” flies both against its past actions and the admission it paid students to criticize HTC phones.

If it’s prepared to mount such a campaign against HTC, then why would it not have also launched such activity against other competitors? Has it been engaged in such activity in its campaign against Apple?

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.

According to BBC News, Samsung’s Taiwan subsidiary confirmed via its  local Facebook page it had “ceased all marketing activities that involve the posting of anonymous comments,” adding that “the recent incident was unfortunate, and occurred due to insufficient understanding of these fundamental principles.”

The company is now planning training for employees to ensure events were not repeated.

Should Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission find Samsung guilty of engaging in “false advertising”, the company along with its local agent could be fined up to of 25 million Taiwanese dollars, or approximately $837,000.

HTC One (lifestyle 003)
Samsung admitted paying students to bad-mouth HTC phones

As for Evans’ assessment, he hit the nail on the head.

Evidently, Samsung did not change the game with technology or product.

The iPhone remains the best-selling smartphone brand bar none.

Samsung, of course, eclipses Apple in terms of units sales because it carpet-bombs the market with dozens of smartphone models offered in many shapes, sizes and price points, whereas Apple only has its iPhone which rules the profits game.

But by outspending Apple substantially in smartphone marketing, choosing to target Apple in advertising and focusing on widening its distribution footprint, Samsung indeed has “changed the game on Apple,” a Forbes writer recently observed.

Never mind that the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 are the world’s two most popular smartphones, or that Apple’s smartphone recently topped JD Power’s satisfaction rankings for ninth consecutive study – Samsung remains maniacally focused on changing the public’s perception on Apple and hoping sales would eventually follow.

Samsung Life-affirming chip in Yongin
Samsung’s mission statement imprinted on an oversized chip outside its Yongin, Seoul complex.

Former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassee recently warned Apple may be losing the war on words:

“Besides its ads, Apple says very little, confident numbers will do the talking,” he wrote on his Monday Note blog a month ago. “This no longer works as others have seized the opportunity to drive the narrative.”

He also predicted Samsung’s snafu with paid fake reviews, cautioning that “attacking competitors, pointing to their weaknesses, and trumpeting one’s achievements is better done by hired media assassins.”

Paying others to spread lies about your competitors’ products may not be illegal, but consumers are not stupid and are capable of figuring out truth from the lies.

In my view, Samsung has shot itself in the foot and its own admission of guilt, while a welcomed move, won’t do any good to its already tarnished brand.

Imagine if Apple paid students to sing praises to its iPhone or bad-mouth Galaxy devices.

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  • Kaptivator

    Doesn’t surprise me…

  • http://www.facebook.com/raaed.rizza.7 Raaed Rizza

    Wow… How low can you get?

    • http://www.facebook.com/Izhart Izhar Syed

      I bet if we got a limbo stick and played with Samsung, Samsung would win.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.sims.526 Eric Sims

    Stupid. But if the students got to keep the phones Thad be cool

  • http://www.facebook.com/mehrabh Mehrab Haque

    I bet they bribe gsmarena theverge and cnet sites of that type to say good about samsung,android and bad about apple or ios. Just my opinion!

    • leart za jmi

      Your right, gsm arena will never let a coment that is hurting samsung. And in the first page you will never se a iphone

      • http://www.facebook.com/mehrabh Mehrab Haque

        True haha

      • Sapna MULANI

        Since the time S4 is announced..On gsmarena, it has never gone below 92% in terms of Popularity..

      • leart za jmi

        i don’t trust their statistics since there are making publicity for samsung

  • http://twitter.com/Youngblood6415 Caleb Youngblood

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • http://twitter.com/helliwell86 llǝɥɾ

    Very dangerous business to be in Ltd of spying and backstabbing on every part including appl and under hand payments I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the big company are guilty. You don’t get that successfull,wealthy and more successfull with being nice

    • http://twitter.com/xKami786 Kamrul

      Exactly it’s got to be done anyways if people are so gullible when looking at these fake reviews then its their fault.

  • http://twitter.com/skidtech tskwierc

    I’m sure if I was strapped for cash in college and Samsung was handing out free phones I probably would say good things about their phones too, but to bash other brands in the process without ever giving them a fair review is pretty low.

    • ButcherChop

      It’s one thing to poke fun of the competition in commercials and have the public decide, but to pay people to comment and bash the competition blindly is just a bad business practice.

  • http://twitter.com/rick5up Ricky

    HTC is the best android phones. I love the weather widget hahaha

    • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

      To be honest I’d have to agree with you there. If I didn’t own an iPhone I’d most likely own either a HTC, Sony Ericsson, or a Windows phone in that order but most defiantly not a Samsung

      • ButcherChop

        We have the HTC One, Samsung 4, iPhone 5S, and now a Moto X in the family and you can’t go wrong with any of those phones. The Moto X is probably my favorite out of them. Oh, My Nexus 5 has just shipped too. :)

  • batongxue

    Yeah. It is abosolutely true.
    Those people hired by Shamesung are called “water army” here in China.
    Water basically means that the threads created by them are of no nutrition and most of the time fake.
    Most of them are poor students who do not have enough money and choose do this part-time job for Shamesung. It does help Shamesung, because people who are not tech savy would be easily fooled by those thread in which those “poor students” speak how good the Galaxy is and how HTC devices suck! Believe it or not, they are very professional.
    The truth is Shamesung used to do this to Apple, maybe they have tasted the sweetness, now they have turned to HTC since last year(and they are still doing this all over the major Android forum in China mainland, Taiwan and whatever regions).

    All I wanna say is….
    Bitch!

  • batongxue

    You guys have no idea what is going on around here in China.
    Just full of ridiculousness
    How ridiculous? Can not be measured
    Really make me feel helpless. LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesheckiii James Heck III

    Perhaps said students can use the money they earn towards a new phone constructed of quality materials such as metal and glass.

    Any way you try to spin it, plastic is plastic.

    DISCLAIMER: I wasn’t paid for the above comments, and I’ve spent thousands of my own money on Apple products over the years.

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      HA! I love the disclaimer

    • Lewis Brown

      The grade of plastic used on the s4 is stronger than the metals used for the iPhone 5, they use it in the military for one. And you are totally correct, plastic is indeed plastic. I should come to you when I don’t know whether wood is wood or not, or even whether glass is glass, but for now I’m okay.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lord.cthulhu Anthony Aaron Anderson

        Actually that all depends on how you are judging “strong” and what kind of yield testing you do. The i5 requires less energy before the aluminum starts to bend, however it is designed to take a weight load high enough for the frame to bend, while still maintaining functionality. An i5′s structure can bend several degrees before it quits being functional. The s4 requires more energy before the plastic begins to bend but the bending yield is quite low. The s4 uses high impact resistant plastics which don’t bend far. They are brittle. And under enough stress the plastic breaks beyond the point of functionality. So the i5 can actually take more abuse before it loses functionality making it the better built device. The I5 is designed to survive a drop. The s4 is designed to survive being set on a desk. (Some of this info was gathered from the web and some of it is results from my own testing for my blog and YouTube channel.)

      • Ajax

        it doesn’t matter if it’s stronger, do you throw it or what? it’s about how it feels in your hand and how it looks.

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Know you don’t throw a phone you drop one. If you were to throw a phone chances are you’re either a YouTube reviewer or you’ve got really mad for not getting five stars on an angry birds level (which is not uncommon).

      • Angry Bird

        Getting five stars on an Angry Birds level is impossible. You can only get up to three. :P

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        My bad

    • Mike

      I agree that Samsung phones do appear cheap (S3 more than the S4 at least, but still cheap) until you consider this:

      They aren’t going for an amazing phone design (as Apple is) but instead for an amazing phone experience with new software upgrades. They want people to instantly recognize their phone as “the phone that can be controlled without being touched, and bla bla bla” whereas iPhones at this point are instantly recognized as just that, iPhones. People know they are easy to use, have good support, and are incredibly well built. They don’t always see it as the phone that ‘does’ things.

      Personally, I don’t want an S4 simply because I can’t stand TouchWiz (Samsung’s “feature-filled” and incredibly ugly skin of Android). I own and would rather own a Nexus 4. A lot of the new features they put into TouchWiz I find to be gimmicky and aren’t worth buying a $640 phone for (especially since the Nexus 4 is only $300 and I like it more). I will be rooting for the S4 to outsell the 5S though simply because it is Android and people need to realize how far behind iPhones are.

      • anasiatka

        This comment above is endorsed by Googe, Inc. and sponsored by Samsung. CEO Kwon Oh Hyun states that the training for his area doesn’t start until next week but has reportedly personally handed over the final paycheck and advised that he can no longer acknowledge paying Mike to post these types of comments.

  • whoknowswhereor

    Yeah, Samsung… the first company to ever do this… lets be real here And it’s these shady chinese divisions doing this, go figure.

  • http://twitter.com/oo7plasma Brandon

    why am i not even surprised considering how much negative publicity they already do…

  • Tardroid

    SHAMESUNG

  • pauleebe

    But I’m sure they never did this to apple …

    • http://www.facebook.com/saeed.ghattas.5 Saeed Ghattas

      Said no one ever…

  • Kaki

    Whatever….Samsung galaxy series is way better than any iPhone…period.

    • Guest

      And how much did you get paid for that insightful comment?!

      I am really envious of those “air gestures”. /s

    • http://www.facebook.com/jamesheckiii James Heck III

      And how much were you paid for that insightful comment?!

      • http://www.facebook.com/Selerdoe Giovanni Ramos

        Probably as much as you were paid to bash his opinion

      • Kurt

        My iPhone is a mid range smart phone. I have no problem admitting that. When I buy the Galaxy Note 3, I won’t have any problem admitting I have the best phone. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/cameronrc Cameron Chao

        you make it sound as if a smartphone is a Laptop/PC

      • Kurt

        actually I don’t

      • http://www.facebook.com/cameronrc Cameron Chao

        Note 3 is not out yet. What makes you think it is gonna be so good? isnt this the Apple fanboys way of thinking?

      • Kurt

        Why are you trolling?

      • http://www.facebook.com/cameronrc Cameron Chao

        trolling? really? do you know what trolling means?

      • Kurt

        You’re trolling. Being a jerk, trying to start something for no reason. Go troll someone else

      • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

        When Kurt gets hurt, he always says that…that “we” are trolling.

        I mean… you got the point.. he doesn’t even know how Note 3 will be and says that. “Note.. the best phone” ahahh…

        What a MASSIVE phone… every time I see people talking on Galaxy Notes I can’t even qualify how they look like… and people always talk about iPad users taking pictures… but seriously, more ridiculous than that is talking on giant phones.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      in your dreams where elton john is also straight right..!?!?! lololloololo

  • http://twitter.com/dpacemaker David Pace

    You’d have to be paid to think that a plastic phone with a buggy, malware infested OS is good. I read comments on here of people bashing iDevices. It’s a iDevice blog, it mainly talks about iOS devices, with other tech mentioned periodically. I don’t go to Samsung blogs that talks about all the cool stuff you can do. There probably isn’t one, but still.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Selerdoe Giovanni Ramos

      If you get malware on your android then you have to be a certified dumb ass

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        If you have or use a device that runs Android then no offence but you are “a certified dumb ass”

  • http://www.facebook.com/mykelxmonroe Mykel Monroe

    LOL. I’ll give you 20 bucks to write my essay for me. (But I’ll copy off your final exam for free.)

  • Erine

    And how much does iDB gets to solicit negative news about Samsung or Android everyday?

    • http://www.facebook.com/saeed.ghattas.5 Saeed Ghattas

      Guys, here’s one :).
      But seriously, they are telling the truth here not just making it up so…

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      they really do suck though i will pay someone to let me say that fact..lol

  • seyss

    dog eaters have no decency

    • Kurt

      I ate dog…don’t knock it till you tried it. It’s pretty good.

  • felixtaf

    After releasing ~150 Galaxy devices in the market, Samsung needs to do these silly things to catch-up in market??? Shamesung!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      Shamesung!!! oloolloloololololololololoolololollooolo

  • http://www.facebook.com/tafk1 Taf Khan

    No need to pay anyone to Slag Samdung off on here, people are happy to do it for free.. .

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      yup

  • http://www.facebook.com/tafk1 Taf Khan

    In all honesty… Is anyone surprised? Lets face it, what’s a student or two when you have purchased a high court judge! :P

  • Liam Mulcahy

    Samsung sucks

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      android sucks too

      • Joe Bobbins

        Well Android offers more liberty, no need to jailbreak. However I still think iPhones are the best by far.

  • http://profiles.google.com/cblasko Chris Blasko

    How is this any different than any other large corporation in existence?

  • Angel Navedo

    They’re going to be sued for more money than the writers were paid. /angryjournalist

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    samsung could have used than money to make better phones and their own OS so they wont have to be crappy and use crappie android…lool silly company

    • http://www.facebook.com/Selerdoe Giovanni Ramos

      Android is so crappy ? Probably why they are hitting the 1 billion user mark right? I have never seen a site with so many people riding on the apple band wagon lmfao I hope apple pays you so you can buy a quality brain

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Come on now, was that really necessary? Everyone knows that the only reason most mobile phone companies use Android is because they are cheapskates that cannot be asked to innovate themselves so just use an OS they can get for nothing and then never bother dishing out updates for it afterwards…

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        300+ devices run android so um duh.. apple is still the most desired brand and many folks cant access apple products so they have to settle doe android sadly..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002587541044 范翔稷

    They even make fake photos using light effects to make phones look thinner on famous chinese websites,no wonder so many people hate samsung here in Taiwan

  • Web_World

    I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of Samsungs secret and evil practices. I started to realize that when I learned that the UK judge who ruled too much in favor of Samsung ended up on Samsungs pay list. I’s about time journalists are investigating whether American judge Lucy Koh is being bribed as well by Samsung. This would make a great story! Samsung is not only spending enormous amounts on ‘advertising’ alone. They could as well be behind the fire at Apple’s supplier LG. A big set-back for Apple. Seriously I do not understand Americans are still buying #cheapkoreanplastic

  • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

    After so many shame sung stories, there are people who still defend this company… wow, wait… THEY ARE PAID TO DO THAT!

  • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

    Who wants a customization that almost 99% of them doesn’t work properly. I already tested a lot of “dial apps”, message apps, and many others and guess what? Most of them crash and some of them can’t even hang out the calls… seriously, this Android BS “customization” drives me crazy…

    People only like Android because it’s cheap or have no taste about quality at all…

    • IndiePhoenix

      Exactly, I have never seen a customised Android or a jailbroken iPhone which I like. I don’t even like how the TouchWiz from Samsung looks. It’s so crowded! If I had to choose an Android, Nexus would be the choice.

  • Joe Bobbins

    There’s somebody down-voting every comment people post. There’s a samsung fanboy in our midst.

  • Falk M.

    Stay classy my friends! -_-

  • http://www.facebook.com/lonely.fate 柯禎宏

    We’re not surprised that korean will cheat on everything that’s possible to cheat; and to clarify, they korean are so proud of their cheating behavior.

  • World According to Wendy

    Samsung!… Shame on you… Your product IS better… Can’t say the same about your ethics…

  • Abaasa Kushe Edwin

    What the hell is wrong with all these people and all the negativity??? Phones are personal devices and different people prefer different things. I remember using the iPhone which was incredibly good and when galaxy S2 came out, I tried it. I realised two things 1. I liked iPhone coz of simplicity and fluid os 2. I was using the S2 more because there was alot it was doing for me. Then I started wishing I could have all the S2 features in my iPhone but I couldn’t. So personally I would choose the galaxy. Everyone has a choice, choose what works for you and leave this cheap talk. Unless ofcourse you own Apple or Samsung or HTC that you’ll be sharing there profits.

  • Jordan Bradley

    This is why I’m a LOYAL HTC Customer…

  • Allan

    Low. Incredibly low. This is why I have tried to find every reason to steer clear of Samsung. Their popularity never seemed right.

    I’m sorry Samsung. Your products deserve much better than your repugnant marketing division gives them. I really hope more people knew about this…

  • Ahmad Adnan

    you people or can i say iPhone owners or any phone owners not Samsung

    but the others why you guys are so freak Samsung have made the best technology on the plant sens the last two years you can say something against it

  • ButcherChop

    Five to six guys came into an Android forum bashing the Nexus 5 and praising the Note 3, all at once. No facts as to why, just straight ahead with no point other than it was superior and Nexus 5 was an entry-level phone. It’s gotten out of hand.