There’s no doubt that online reviews hold some serious weight when it comes to the likes of promoting apps and other software, and with this power comes the obligatory exploitation of it.
While the affliction of fake reviews doesn’t just affect smartphone and tablet apps, the rather fickle market in which they exist is much more susceptible to their sway due to an app’s reliance on exposure from various charts and leaderboards that are, in turn, impacted by these reviews and ratings.
While Apple has had its own share of problems with fake reviews on the App Store (despite the iOS marketplace being relatively locked down), Google's slightly more lenient approach to apps on the Play Store has arguably led to more abuse of the Android platform – however the tech giant has recently revealed (opens in new tab) some milestones around its efforts to clean it up.
Taking out the trash
By implementing a system that uses machine learning alongside a team of “skilled reviewers” and analysts, Google has removed millions of bad reviews and ratings and taken down “thousands of bad apps identified due to suspicious reviews and rating activities” in a single week.
Google classes a review or rating as ‘bad’ when it either contains “profane, hateful or off-topic” subject matter, is blatantly used to manipulate the overall average rating – either positively or negatively – or if the rating has been given in exchange for money.
The latter type of reviews are known as 'incentivized ratings' and often includes apps or games that offer free in-app items in exchange for a positive review – something which is prohibited by Google’s official policy.
As much work as Google is doing to fix the issue, it’s also asking users to help out by marking reviews or ratings as 'spam' from within the Play Store, and to also refrain from rewarding dodgy developers via those aforementioned incentivized ratings.