How Samsung (Might Have) Concocted Its Harebrained Fake-Online-Comments Scheme

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 24 2013 5:55 PM

How Samsung (Might Have) Concocted Its Harebrained Fake-Online-Comments Scheme

HTC was having a hard enough time selling its phones even before Samsung's astroturfing campaign.
HTC was having a hard enough time selling its phones even before Samsung's astroturfing campaign.

Photo by Mandy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images

The AP reported today that Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission has slapped Samsung with a $340,000 fine for paying local students to pose as online commenters disappointed with the performance of cellphones made by its Taipei-based rival, HTC. The fine won't put much of a dent in the South Korean behemoth's marketing budget, which is rumored to be upwards of $10 billion a year. Still, not the most flattering outcome, especially for a company that was already crushing poor HTC in market share.

It’s hard to fathom the Samsung marketing meeting in which this harebrained scheme got the green light. Here's how I imagine the conversation went:

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.


Marketing executive 1: Our Galaxy Note and Galaxy S3 are some of the best-selling cellphones on the market, and yet some consumers persist in buying other cellphones, like the HTC One X. We need them to stop doing that. Any ideas?

Marketing executive 2: We've got to find the conversations where people are talking about the HTC One X, and then stamp them out. Where are people talking about the HTC One X? Online comment boards, maybe?

Marketing executive 1: Yes! I bet those scoundrels are talking about the HTC One X on online comment boards. We should go in there and tell them how terrible it is. But wait: We’re Samsung marketing executives. Do you think it might look bad if people knew we were spending our time trashing other people’s phones on online comment boards?

Marketing executive 2 (scratching chin pensively): Good point. Hmm ...

Junior marketing associate (tentatively): I know some students who could use some extra cash…

Marketing executive 1: Genius! Write up some nasty things for them to say about the HTC One X, and maybe have them trash some of their other phones while they're at it. They can say a nice thing or two about our phones, but let’s not go overboard. Remember the first rule of online commenting: Keep it negative. Any questions?

Junior marketing associate: If we’re going to pay people to trash other phone companies in online comment boards, why are we focusing on an also-ran like HTC? Shouldn’t we be trying to undermine commenters who support some of our bigger rivals, like, I don't know, Appl—

Marketing executive 2 (interjecting): Shhh! You know we’re never to speak of classified ops like “Project Fanboy” in a setting like this.

Junior associate: Eek. Sorry. Forget I said anything. HTC sounds good to me.

(Meeting adjourns.)

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.