“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.