Following the launch of BBM for Android and iOS on 21 October, Blackberry has been accused of ‘astroturfing’, a process where a company artificially inflates its reputation through fake reviews on websites and forums.
The slew of suspicious reviews emerged on Google Play, where missing commas, absent prepositions and poor spelling were the first give-aways of comments posted by bots and spammers.
“Thank you so much Blackberry team,” one review read. “I was waiting this app. It is really great user friendly and smooth.” This same text was copied repeatedly, seemingly by different users, over and over on Google Play.
One of the comment threads was even prefaced by what seems to be an instruction from a PR manager, saying “Please post the following comment on the new BlackBerry Messenger Android App. ‘Thank you so much Blackberry team….’”
BlackBerry would not be the first business to hire other parties to post false reviews, with plenty of companies submitting manufactured audits to app vendors. Indeed, the practice of false user endorsement even extends to social media, with a booming underground economy growing on Twitter as users buy followers.
BlackBerry however - perhaps because a marketing firm hired by the company is doing this without BlackBerry’s knowledge - has denied all involvement. In a statement, a spokesperson claimed that the smartphone manufacturer has “no knowledge of how reviews were created or populated” and that the company “does not approve or condone such activities.”
BlackBerry has also pointed out that there also many genuinely positive (as well as negative) reviews for the new Android app.
The company’s position in the smartphone market has been slipping of late, as Android and iOS mobile platforms have swiftly overtaken it in popularity. The blunder follows a year of bad luck, following top investors suing BlackBerry for fraudulent stock claims and Apple swooping in to the company’s Canadian headquarters to steal its laid off workers.