Are Samsung drones trolling Apple?

Samsung anti-Apple Maps street sign (image 001)

We don’t usually go in for conspiracy theories, but one is drawing quiet a bit of attention – and factual basis. Has corporate giant Samsung, stung by its more than $1 billion patent lawsuit loss to Apple in 2012, waging war on the iPhone maker? A number of signs point to the affirmative, including an apparent tactic to swamp any critics with pro-Samsung comments.

Along with blatant examples of the business press spinning news against Apple and for Samsung, there has been reports of fake Samsung product reviews. Additionally, we’ve seen up-close attempts by pro-Samsung ‘trolls’ to dominate comments…

Our attention was piqued by the Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s rather innocuous Fortune column published over the weekend. In it, Elmer-DeWitt asks whether tactics Samsung admitted using against rival HTC are now targeting Apple.

The response was immediate, here’s what DeWitt wrote the following day:

In the space of a few hours, more than a thousand votes were cast on the DISQUS feedback system, voting down any comment remotely anti-Samsung and voting up anything – no matter how inane, in-artful or wrong – that disparaged Apple, the thesis, or me.

As an example, the Fortune columnist noted a comment asking how much Apple stock he owned was voted up 27 times, while the columnist’s answer – ‘none’ – was voted down 22 times. The votes effectively buried the ‘pro’ Apple response while highlighting the comment supporting Samsung.

One comment, in particular, became the target of pro-Samsung trolls.

The writer, who calls himself Jake_in_Seoul, pointed out that Samsung is actually a conglomerate comprised of 80 companies, including an ad agency, credit card, securities and other financial institutions, giving the Galaxy maker “a wide range of expertise and global connections at hand” to conduct corporate warfare, should it wish.

Perhaps most stinging was the comment that “Samsung is not generally well liked by the Korean people” however it is “career suicide” to write negatively of the company.

Because the comment was disliked so many times, Elmer-DeWitt reposted it within his next column – “to show that voices like his can’t be silenced.”

Earlier this month, Samsung described as an “unfortunate incident” which violated “fundamental principles” the report that college students were paid to post comments critical of rival HTC in Taiwan.

Writing on Facebook, Samsung’s Taiwan unit said it had “ceased all marketing activities that involve the posting of anonymous comments.”

Marketing activities?

In his comment, ‘Jake’ the ex-pat living in Seoul said:

Reuters, the WSJ, and FT, etc. only write puff pieces that raise doubt as to whether the material was drafted by Samsung PR.

As an example of the spin put on financial stories when Apple and Samsung are involved, two news outlets covered the same first-quarter results posted by Apple-supplier LG Display and came away with two widely-diverging headlines.

Samsung ad (iPhone 5 launch 001)

The Wall Street Journal viewed the news this way: ‘LG Display Gets Boost from Apple.’

The story notes that LG is likely to gain more business from Apple introducing product upgrades as well as increasing demand for mobile devices. By contrast, Reuters highlights the story as ‘Slowdown in Apple orders weighs on LG Display.’

Monday, MacDailyNews pointed out that the report is written by a reporter based in Seoul (Samsung’s home), quoting a lone analyst from the Korea Investment & Securities firm and another one working for Samsung Securities.

Yes, Samsung Securities.

Additionally, the analyst compares sequential financial quarters – one during the holidays when people are buying like mad and the next when people get their credit card bill.

Anti-Apple headlines 001

Although LG Display reported a “sharp improvement” in sales from the previous year, revenue “was down 74 percent from the previous quarter, hurt by a seasonal slowdown in demand and by weaker sales to Apple, which is scheduled to report quarterly results on Tuesday,” according to Reuters.

Only near the end does the report note that analysts expect LG Display earnings to improve “in the coming quarter” as Apple introduces upgraded products and demand for mobile screens increases.

By contrast, the Wall Street Journal out of the box reported that LG “swung to a net profit in the first quarter as tablet screen sales to Apple Inc. increased…” 

Marketing is not all about fancy ads, but about positively positioning your product against rivals.

This is why we encourage readers to be critical thinkers – particularly how language is used and the way numbers are deployed to support one firm while subtly slighting another.

Any your take?

Why has reporting on Apple gotten so crazy?