After being caught paying for false praise and negative comments about competitors, Samsung has been fined just over $340,000. The issue first arose internationally in April, when Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) announced it was opening an investigation into the allegations. That investigation found the allegations were true: the FTC says Samsung used a “large number of hired writers and designated employees” to post in Taiwanese forums. The commission does add that the company did this through a third-party marketing company, just as Samsung originally claimed. Two local marketing firms were fined a combined total of over $100,000 for their part in the marketing ploy.
When news first broke of Samsung’s behavior, HTC was presented as the victim of a campaign of defamation from the Korean company’s army of commenters, but the FTC’s report into the matter doesn’t mention the Taiwanese company by name. Instead, it only notes that the company paid people to “highlight the shortcomings of competing products.” The commission did dig up a lot more nefarious activity related to Samsung’s commenters, though. The list of infractions includes the “disinfection of negative news about Samsung products,” “palindromic Samsung product marketing,” and the positive evaluation of Samsung products.
Both individually and collectively, these types of covert marketing are known in the industry as “astroturfing.” While Samsung is by no means the first company to engage in astroturfing, it’s been caught in the act twice this year alone. In relation to a later case, Samsung told The Verge that it remains “committed to engaging in transparent and honest communications with consumers.”