Google removed at least 100,000 negative reviews of the stock trading app Robinhood from the Google Play app store after angry users sent a flood of critical reviews that caused the app’s rating to plummet on Thursday. The app’s rating went from roughly four stars out of five on Wednesday to just one star on Thursday. Robinhood users were understandably upset after the company halted purchases of GameStop’s stock and other stocks promoted by Reddit’s WallStreetBets community.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the tech giant has deleted the reviews and defended the move overnight, telling Gizmodo over email that it has rules against “coordinated or inorganic reviews.” Gizmodo asked how negative reviews could be deemed “inorganic” when people seem reasonably upset about Robinhood’s actions in recent days. Google stopped responding to Gizmodo’s emails after that inquiry.
Robinhood’s rating on the Google Play app store has rebounded to over four stars since Google deleted the negative reviews. The app also has a 4.7 rating on Apple’s app store, though it’s not clear what kind of moderation Apple has done of its reviews for Robinhood this week.
There are still questions about what actually led Robinhood to halt purchases of stocks picked by Reddit’s WallStreetBets on Thursday — stocks that include not just GameStop but Nokia, Blackberry, and AMC Theatres, among others. An early theory was that hedge funds which had shorted the stocks had leaned on Robinhood to halt trading, but an alternate theory emerged that Robinhood simply didn’t have the cash flow to continue processing so many stock purchases.
The latter theory seems to have been bolstered by a new report early Friday from the New York Times claiming Robinhood has raised roughly $US1 ($1.5) billion from existing investors like Sequoia Capital and Ribbit Capital. Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev denied the company was having liquidity problems on CNBC yesterday, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t anticipating liquidity problems in the very near future.
Robinhood users angry with the company’s decision to halt purchases of GameStop filed a class action lawsuit on Thursday, a move that would seem to give credence to the idea that a negative app rating on Google Play isn’t necessarily “inorganic.”
It’s been a turbulent week on the stock market, as activist retail investors on Reddit have shown the entire system to be a scam in favour of the wealthy. But no one knows where that will leave U.S. financial markets in the coming days and weeks.
Most Americans know in their heart of hearts that the game is rigged. But this week’s actions by activist investors on Reddit have really made the rules plain for the entire world to see. The wealthy will not tolerate average people making money while they suffer.
The question is how far hedge fund managers and other wealthy people are willing to take this to defend their class interests. If history is any guide, the answer is “pretty damn far.”