Google has reportedly deleted millions of negative reviews left on TikTok’s Play Store page after a controversial video was removed from the video-sharing network.
Google’s response to the review rating manipulation was to simply remove them, which it justified because it declared them fake accounts being set up to destroy the app’s high rating.
The video at the core of the situation was uploaded by Faizal Siddiqui in mid-May and depicted a fake acid attack.
TikTok removed the video as it violated the app’s guidelines and suspended Siddiqui’s account.
“As per the policy, we do not allow content that risks the safety of others, promotes physical harm, or glorifies violence against women,” a TikTok spokesperson said to the BBC.
Siddiqui has since apologised for uploading the video, recognising he had a certain level of responsibility as an influencer.
But even with Google’s removal of the spam negative reviews, TikTok’s 4.5-star rating hasn’t fully recovered.
Apparently, Google deleted over a million TikTok reviews overnight, that's why the rating increased from 1.2 to 1.6 stars. pic.twitter.com/pDylX8BwcT
— Norbert Elekes (@NorbertElekes) May 22, 2020
Targeted campaigns to destroy a service or a piece of content —’review bombing’ as it’s colloquially known — is not a new phenomenon by any means.
Dedicated fan bases in the past few years have coordinated attacks to discredit or embarrass larger companies in response to actions they have taken.
Captain Marvel‘s Rotten Tomatoes site was filled with negative reviews before the movie had been publicly released in response to comments made by the lead actor, Brie Larson, who some Marvel fanatics deemed too politically correct.
Star Wars’ The Last Jedi faced a similar fate when 4Chan users claimed to be behind a drastic drop in its ratings on the site.
Unlike Google, Rotten Tomatoes has taken a different approach to the problem. In May 2019, the review aggregation site added a feature that would allow readers to see whether a reviewer had been confirmed as seeing the movie they were reviewing.
Rotten Tomatoes has yet to confirm whether the feature has alleviated the situation but it seems like a good start for anyone wanting to take user reviews more seriously.