I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at an app and tested it only to be amazed by the number of positive reviews and rating that it has received on iTunes (some look awfully fake). There are just so many low quality apps that find their way to iTunes and get rave fake reviews from its developers. Posting fake reviews is not a new concept. There are people who do it on Amazon and other popular sites, so you can’t really fault Apple for these reviews making it to iTunes. In fact, if the person doing the fake reviews is smart about it, it’s tough for them to get caught. iTunes does not allow you to post a review for an app if you don’t own it, but some people are still getting away with fake reviews or so it seems.
My suspicion is some developers have a complex system in place to make sure they don’t get caught. They don’t just leave reviews for their own apps, and they do make sure that they use different IPs and are essentially professional fakers. Then we have some people who write fake reviews for their own products only. They give themselves 5 stars across the board and don’t even think about protecting themselves from getting caught. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think anyone should trick their prospects by posting fake reviews. But if you are faking it, be ready to pay the price when you are caught.
Molinker Inc is a developer of photography applications for iPhone that has become the center of a fake reviews investigation by Apple. iPhoneography had a story on these people a few weeks ago, and we now know that the majority of their apps have been removed from iTunes. It’s nice to know that Apple is paying attention to what is going on in its community and is taking action. At the same time, there is no real way to stop people from looking for unethical ways to a leg up on their competitors. Positive fake reviews are in fact not as damaging as negative fake reviews (a strategy that I suspect is adopted by developers who want to take down their competitors). So the problem is not going to go away any time soon.
Apple is not going to catch everyone. It’ll be up to the community to report scammers and fakers. I do believe that there should be severe penalties for anyone who is determined to have left negative reviews on competitors’ products on purpose. By how do you prove intent? Not very easy to do.
Your take: do you believe fake reviews on iTunes is a widespread problem?