'Dash' App Removed From App Store for Alleged Review Manipulation
Popular API documentation browser Dash was yesterday pulled from the App Store after a routine migration request. Dash developer Bogdan Popescu was given no explanation for why the app had been pulled aside from "fraudulent conduct," but after a conversation with Apple, he's been accused of manipulating App Store reviews.
Popescu received a "Notice of Termination" email yesterday and his iTunes Connect account was shut down. Apple initially declined to offer more information, but after Dash's App Store removal started making headlines, Apple told Popescu it was due to App Store review manipulation, such as paying for positive reviews, something he denies doing.
Update: Apple contacted me and told me they found evidence of App Store review manipulation. This is something I've never done.
Apple's decision is final and can't be appealed.
Despite Popescu's denial, Apple appears to be adamant that some sort of fraud took place. Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller has stepped in and commented on the situation, through an email sent to Matthew Els, who asked him about the situation.
Thanks for your email about this app.
I did look into this situation when I read about it today. I am told this app was removed due to repeated fraudulent activity.
We often 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.
I hope that you understand the importance of protecting the App Store from repeated fraudulent activity.
At this time, Popescu says that Apple's decision is final and the app will not be returned to the App Store. The developer community seems to be surprised by the accusation, with many calling Dash a quality app that wouldn't have needed to boost its reviews.
@marcoarment @stroughtonsmith You see how many people now write good things about Dash? Busted. :) — Jacob Gorban (@jacobgorban) October 6, 2016
Dash by @kapeli is used by thousands of devs and has been for years. I use it myself for my iOS reviews. They don’t need to buy reviews…? — Federico Viticci (@viticci) October 6, 2016
Top Rated Comments
That is the particularly BS part of all this. Third Reich much?
But Apple cancels orders for no reason, so why not developer accounts.
Especially if Phil looked into this personally, he'd have known the media fallout and confusion from this. Plus I don't just think it's a case of a competitor hiring fake reviews on his app — Apple would definitely have considered and looked into that.
Now, the email from Phil said: "including actions designed to hurt other developers". What if we're looking at this the wrong way? What if he was hiring bots to spam bad reviews on competitors' products?
There's something they're not telling us. The more I think about it, the more of a mystery it's becoming.
[doublepost=1475777722][/doublepost] Especially when we're talking about developer livelihoods.
Review spam and fake ratings are certainly a huge problem for App Store users, and I am not 100% certain that second chances are the way to go: then it's "may as well try the spam, no harm done if we're caught!" It's not as if there haven't been warnings against this for years.
Now, IF it's a straight-up error and this company never used ANY such methods, I hope the error is corrected (as Apple generally does with their review/removal errors, though the remedy gets less blog attention than the initial Godwin's Law hysteria). Seems like a worthwhile app that need not game the system, and Apple can have a stated "no second chance" policy, but they can ALSO bend their decisions when called for. It happens.
And if some fraudulent marketing company tricked this developer into not knowing what they were signing up to receive, I hope the dev can make a legal case against them.
Similarly, if an attacker is behind this, taking actions PRETENDING to be this dev, I hope that comes to light (and it probably will, because this won't be the only victim). I find that sadly plausible.
We may never know the facts. Won't stop us jumping to conclusions :)