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Wuhan students tried to boot remote learning app from the App Store by leaving bad reviews

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Afterward, DingTalk was using social media to beg for its life

Greece Virus Outbreak Photo by Panayotis Tzamaros/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus outbreak began, schools are closed, so kids have had to use an Alibaba-owned corporate app called DingTalk to attend classes remotely. (In January, DingTalk got a slew of new education features.) The only problem: a rumor had been circulating that apps with one-star ratings would be booted from the App Store. And according to a dispatch from the London Review of Books, a bunch of Chinese kids did exactly what you’d expect kids to do: they review-bombed DingTalk.

According to TechNode, it’s meant that DingTalk has been fighting for its life:

Dingtalk uploaded an apology video on Chinese streaming site Bilibili. The video featured memes and cartoons singing a catchy tune with lyrics begging for better reviews like “I know guys, you were not expecting such a productive holiday” and “Please don’t give me any more one-star ratings. I was chosen for this job and there is not much I can do about it.” The video has been viewed nearly 17 million times.

In response to DingTalk’s pleas, a widely circulated joke, students wrote in the review section they were willing to give DingTalk five stars, but in five “installments.”

DingTalk also started receiving a lot of five-star reviews around the same time as the Chinese students’ review-bombing campaign began in earnest, TechNode wrote. They appear to be from older users who aren’t stoked about kids skipping out on school. Even so, the company’s CEO seems to be in on the joke. “It’s in kids’ nature to love to play. If I were in their shoes and had to take online lessons every day, I would probably give a one-star review too,” said DingTalk CEO Chen Hang, according to TechNode.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Of course, DingTalk is still on app stores; unfortunately, it takes more than a bunch of one-star reviews to play digital hooky. Ironically, DingTalk’s corporate uses are nearly as reviled as its educational ones: it apparently already had a bad reputation for helping companies micromanage and exploit their employees.

In the US, there’s been widespread discussion about whether to close schools. Some colleges have canceled in-person classes (Stanford, Columbia, and Princeton, among others), while high school closures have mostly been limited to areas that have had a confirmed case on campus. That still affects tens of thousands of students, though. Sacramento’s Elk Grove Unified School District will close for at least a week, for example, because a relative of a student tested positive for the virus. It’s Northern California’s largest school district, so 63,000 kids at more than 67 schools will be affected.

That won’t happen for New York City Public Schools — at least not yet, according to The New York Times: “Large-scale, extended school closures could wreak havoc on the city’s enormous school system of 1.1 million students, about 750,000 of whom are low-income and many of whom rely on school for meals and medical care.”