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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RE: Terrible system
by przemo_li on Tue 11th Oct 2016 13:07 UTC in reply to "Terrible system"
Member since:

But that is what actually happened.

Read clearly what Apple spokesperson said. Both accounts where used to create fraudulent reviews. That is their story. They deleted accounts that made reviews. That there where some apps associated with those accounts was not relevant to the Apple decision making.

But developer in question actually contest those claims. He says no fraudulent reviews where made from his account (to which the apps where tied too).

Those two are contradictory statements. But person who spoke with developer acknowledged that his story is plausible, and they would not allowed him to just post explanations if some fraudulent reviews where tied to his account.

So it was most probably over 1000 fraudulent reviews on account A and 0 fraudulent reviews on account B.

Which also suggest that spokesperson was not up to date with recent developments in this case and merely reiterated old unverified version of the story.

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Terrible system
by Alfman on Tue 11th Oct 2016 15:24 in reply to "RE: Terrible system"
Alfman Member since:


Another possibility is that the rep knew apple's evidence of fraud was very weak to begin with: Given the bad press apple was getting over the ban, apple finally contacted the developer to create a narrative whereby evidence not standing up to scrutiny could be dismissed without placing apple at fault. I have no way to know if this is true, but the events and phone call actually make a lot of sense in this context.

Either way, the ball is in apple's court to release the evidence it has. It could end up being embarrassing for apple or the dash developer depending on who's version of the story it corroborates. I doubt apple will release anything that embarrasses itself though.

Edited 2016-10-11 15:38 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Terrible system
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 11th Oct 2016 15:47 in reply to "RE[2]: Terrible system"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:

The much more likely story is that everything we know so far is true, and that Apple thought it could get away with accusing an indie developer in Romania of fraudulent activity, because Apple knows damn well its bloggers and developer community just parrot whatever Apple says. What Apple didn't anticipate for, however, was the call being recorded.

Let's also not deny the subtle xenophobic undertones in many of the stories and tweets - this whole air of "well, I don't mean to imply, but Romania, amirite? *wink wink*".

So now we have Apple grossly lying in its PR, and even though we have clear-cut evidence Apple was lying, its bloggers and dev community still fully parrot whatever Apple said, without any corrections or apologies.

This should send a clear signal to people developing for iOS: get out while you still can. The platform is pure poison.

Edited 2016-10-11 15:48 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6