Samsung blames rogue ad agency for abandoned astroturfing scheme

Samsung has been forced to squash suggestions it employed an advertising agency to astroturf the StackOverflow forums with links to its "Smart App Challenge", after one coder blew the whistle on the ill-fated cash-for-links scheme. Active users had been quietly offered $500 apiece by Ad agency Fllu to promote the Samsung Smart App Challenge on the Android discussion boards; when developer Deylan Kratunov revealed he had been approached to take part, Fluu and Samsung were forced to wade in and pull the plug on the scheme.

According to the emails Kratunov received from Fllu, those taking part would be required to spread at least four mentions of the Smart App Challenge out on the StackOverflow boards in the space of a month. The comments should be "casual and organic" the proposal stated, and not point out that the user making them had been effectively employed by the agency to raise awareness of the scheme.

After Kratunov made the messages public, however, Fllu got in touch to "redact" the offer, pointing out that it had been informed that it would contravene the StackOverflow Terms of Service:

"There has been contact that was made from our company regarding promotional opportunities, specifically to be made via public community channels – namely Stackexchange/Stackoverflow. Please note that our request to promote via these public channels is a breach against their Terms of Service and could result in your account being terminated. We do not condone such actions that contradict the respective forum policies and would like to redact any correspondences made" Fllu

Unsurprisingly, the nature of the promotion has not gone down well with developers, and has raised questions about who was responsible for the scheme. Samsung, in a statement given to SlashGear, says that it was down to the ad agency itself, highlighting that in addition to conflicting with the forum's ToS, such practices would also contravene its own corporate policies:

"The promotional activity in question was clearly against Samsung Electronics corporate policy, and the contracted agency responsible for planning this promotional activity was made aware of this fact. Since then, all relevant plans have been cancelled prior to their implementation. We remain committed to engaging in transparent and honest communications with consumers" Samsung spokesperson

It's not the first time in recent weeks that Samsung has been put under the spotlight for how it represents its Android devices publicly, and how transparent it is about the policies around that representation. Earlier this week, claims that Samsung artificially tuned its Android handsets to provide better-than-real-world results in benchmarking apps were made, after research indicated the Galaxy S 4 locked into a maximum GPU speed not available to other apps when programs like Quadrant and AnTuTu were running.

Samsung denied any wrongdoing, however, arguing that the slower GPU speed allowed for high-performance apps such as games was to prevent device overheating, among other things, and that other apps could benefit from the same maximum clock speeds as the benchmarking tools.