Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Oct 2016 00:20 UTC

Remember Dash, which we talked about late last week? Apple released a press statement to its various blogger sites today, claiming:

"Almost 1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected across two accounts and 25 apps for this developer so we removed their apps and accounts from the App Store," Apple spokesperson, Tom Neumayr, said in a statement provided to The Loop on Monday. "Warning was given in advance of the termination and attempts were made to resolve the issue with the developer but they were unsuccessful. We will terminate developer accounts for ratings and review fraud, including actions designed to hurt other developers. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, on behalf of all of our customers and developers."

Case closed, right? Well... Not entirely. This was just Apple's word, without any proof, posted on blogs that often let themselves be used for saccharine Apple PR. Without any proof, how can we know Apple is telling the truth? Do we just believe them because... Because?

The developer in question, Bogdan Popescu, quickly replied in a blog post, and his story is entirely different - and his story is backed up by recordings of telephone calls between him and Apple (which is legal in Romania). I'm not making this up.

What I've done: 3-4 years ago I helped a relative get started by paying for her Apple's Developer Program Membership using my credit card. I also handed her test hardware that I no longer needed. From then on those accounts were linked in the eyes of Apple. Once that account was involved with review manipulation, my account was closed.

I was not aware my account was linked to another until Apple contacted me Friday, 2 days after closing my account. I was never notified of any kind of wrongdoing before my account was terminated.

What Apple has done: on Friday they told me they'd reactivate my account if I'd make a blog post admitting some wrongdoing. I told them I can't do that, because I did nothing wrong. On Saturday they told me that they are fine with me writing the truth about what happened, and that if I did that, my account would be restored. Saturday night I sent a blog post draft to Apple and have since waited for their approval.

Tonight Apple decided to accuse me of manipulating the App Store in public via a spokesperson.

The recorded phone calls leave nothing to the imagination - they do not line up with Apple's PR speak at all.

In the recorded phone call, Apple admits that they never notified him at all, despite Apple's claims to the contrary. Then, they tried to coerce Popescu into publicly admitting wrongdoing - even though he did nothing wrong. After Popescu told Apple he was not going to do that, Apple tells him that he can tell the truth, but that Apple wants to approve the story before posting it. Popescu complies, sends in the story - and a few days later, Apple sends in its blogger army, by falsely accusing Popescu of manipulating App Store reviews.

And the Apple blogger army - and large swaths of the Apple developer community, which I follow on Twitter - immediately crucified him, believing Apple's every word, without questioning them, even if Apple didn't offer any proof. Brian Gesiak's take says it all: "Good to know: if it's ever my word against Apple's, I know who the 'community' is going to trust."

Maybe Apple's bloggers will learn a valuable lesson from this. Most likely, they will not.

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Apple claims the following:
1) There were multiple accounts - not contested by anyone
2) One account was engaged in fraudulent activities - not contested by anyone
3) From Apple's perspective both accounts belonged to the same legal entity - not contested by anyone. Bogdan is clearly an idiot here.
4) Apple tried to contact the fraudulent account owner about it but received no reply - nobody is contesting this. Apple didn't contact the owner of the other account though but from their perspective, at the time, it was the same person.
5) After the public outcry, Apple decided to fix the situation but only if Bogdan publicly explain that there actually was a second account that used HIS information (billing and hardware) which was actually engaged in fraudulent activity, although not coordinated by him.

Bogdan claims the following:
1) They want me to write a blog post in order to restore my account. Which he did, proving Apple was right with 90% of the facts
2) They never notified me beforehand about what was going on. Which is false, they notified the contact that was provided upon the registration of the fraudulent account. What did he expect, a phone call from Phil Schiller after he doesn't reply to emails?

Apple's position seems fair to me and the phone call, although clearly made by a PR robot from Santa Clara, does NOT contradict any of the facts stated by Apple. They just want to make sure that their image is clean.
They took commendable action against activity that we all despise (review fraud) and this one time they went too far and closed an account that was used only for ethical action belonging to the same user. Most fraudulent account owners create multiple developer accounts at the same time.

I believe that Bogdan is crying wolf and screwing Apple's PR efforts. If I worked at Apple PR (not likely even if starvation was the alternative), I'd screw this kid. After giving him a helping hand, he puts our conversation online? Fsck you! Recording a conversation might be legal in Romania but uploading it online isn't without the consent of both parties as it undermines the implied confidentiality of the call.

2) What? Apple spokesperson contest that claim. "over two accounts" means that "on both of them". Apple claim that both where rightfully suspended for violations of T&C.

3) What? Apple should be able to make ANY assumption it wants and people who disagree are "stupid"? Is that serious discussion about corporate-community coexistence? Guy did contested Apples view of the story. Apple even acknowledged that his point of view may be true. (Nice accomplishment for "stupid" guy)

4) No. Apple was able to reach second developer thus, they potentially HAD even back then information's that both accounts have different contact data in their system. That do not prove that accounts where for different entities. But it should direct Apple to contact both sets of contact information's, because the contrary that is assumption that despite different contact information's accounts MUST belong to single entity is simply logical error.

5) Yes. And as one can hear in his recordings, Apple actually promised him a solution that would actually been very good one both for Apple, and the developer and the community. But just few days after that Apple broke the deal. They did state that both of the accounts where involved, and that was AFTER Apple received his story, and after Apple representative acknowledge that it was a possibility.

So either Apple found a proof that developer in question LIED, and in fact he was responsible for those reviews HIMSELF. Or Apple decided to willfully tarnish HIS reputation, and LIE about his actions.

Or what is most probable, spokesperson was not up to date with recent developments, and not knowing that somebody else was already working on good solution, declared OLD version.

Costly PR mistake that would be.

We will see.

Either Apple will produce official apologies, or proof that the developer lied all along.

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