BlackBerry's BBM app was downloaded 10 million times within 24 hours, but at least on Android, some of its many positive reviews seem to come from a less than savory source. Writer Matt Baxter-Reynolds noted yesterday that a huge number of reviews contained the exact same praise for BBM:
Thank you so much blackberry team. I was waiting this app. Its really great user friendly and smooth
Blogger Terence Eden looked through more reviews and found more evidence that somebody was astroturfing the Play Store. In addition to the sheer numbers he found, at least one person seemed to have accidentally copied and pasted more of the text than intended: "Dear Mr Ahmed, please post the following comment on the new BlackBerry Messenger APP..." Fake reviews are a frequent issue across many sites, and a September crackdown resulted in fines for 19 companies. More recently, Samsung was fined for hiring commenters to talk up its own products online and leave negative comments about those of its competitors (allegedly HTC.)
BlackBerry did not immediately return our request for comment, but a spokeswoman responded to Eden, saying the company had nothing to do with it. "We have recently been made aware of a number of potentially fake five-star reviews of BBM for Android on Google Play," she said. "We do not approve of or condone such activities and are committed to working with Google to resolve this." Unfortunately for BlackBerry, the reviews cast some doubt on the 10 million download number it touted earlier this week. There's no reason to believe BlackBerry's count isn't correct, but astroturfed comments could also mean not everyone downloading the app is a fan of BBM.
It doesn't help that at this point, it's virtually impossible to tell how many fake reviews there actually are. Over the past couple of days, the text has become a meme of its own, and a cursory look at the site shows plenty of people with parodic variations — some of which are plausible enough that they add even more confusion. If BlackBerry wants to resolve the issue with Google, it's going to have to address more than just the actions of the spammers.
Update: BlackBerry has responded, once again saying that the reviews were uninvited and entirely unwelcome.
We have been made aware of a number of potentially fake reviews of BBM for Android on Google Play, with ratings anywhere from one to five stars. We have no knowledge of how these reviews were created or populated. We do not approve of or condone such activities. There are also many genuinely great and useful reviews from our new BBM users on Google Play. We would like to encourage our fans and users to continue to provide true assessments of the BBM experience through the proper channels.
As BlackBerry notes, the reviews varied in stars, so they haven't necessarily skewed the overall score, though once again the parody reviews make it hard to figure out exactly how fake reviewers rated it. BlackBerry also affirms that the download number is correct, and I've clarified above — there's no sign that the company gave inaccurate information, but an astroturfing campaign makes it more difficult to tell how much positive response was genuine.