Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission has fined Samsung $340,000 for an organized campaign of using a “large number of hired writers and designated employees” to post good reviews and comments about its own products and criticism of competitors’ products.
Samsung got off easy, however; the fine could have been as much as $1 million.
Two local firms were also fined $100,000 for their roles in the astroturf campaign, which seems to be have been primarily focused on slamming Samsung’s mobile competitor HTC, but also affected other companies’ products. In its defense, Samsung has said that the local firms were responsible for the fake online comments.
However, the FTC said that the local companies provided weekly and monthly reports to Samsung on topics being addressed, viral marketing results, positive and negative comments, and overall achievement rates. The firms — and, the FTC says, Samsung employees — “disinfected” negative comments on Samsung’s own products and highlighted the shortcomings of competitors’ products, all while not disclosing that this was being done on Samsung’s behalf.
This is not the first time Samsung or its designated marketing companies have been caught faking reviews or mentions — a PR company for the Korean electronics giant was caught offering money to developers on Stack Overflow to promote Samsung.
And it follows a pattern of Samsung seeming to try to cheat.
Just a few months ago, it became clear that the Samsung Galaxy S4’s GPU, or graphical processing unit, runs at 480 MHz … unless the Galaxy S4 detects that a user is running a benchmark test. But as soon as the phone sees a popular benchmark speed test such as GLBenchmark, AnTuTu, or Quandrant, the GPU gets overclocked to 532 MHz.
Samsung wouldn’t comment on the record to me about that incident, simply saying the company had “no comment.”
In response to astroturfing, however, the company told The Verge that it remains “committed to engaging in transparent and honest communications with consumers.”
That’s good to know. I guess.