Shills

Say it ain't so, Samsung

April 16, 2013: 12:04 PM ET

Accused of hiring students to post negative comments about rival HTC's phones.

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 11.53.35 AMFORTUNE -- Readers who post comments critical of Apple (AAPL) in this space are often accused of being shills for Samsung, provocateurs paid to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about Samsung's chief U.S. competitor.

With rare exceptions -- a guy who called himself The_Truth_Hurts comes to mind -- I prefer to assume those charges are false. There are plenty of people who have good reason to dislike Apple, and who will happily bash the company for free.

But it doesn't help their cause that, as the BBC reported Tuesday, Taiwanese fair trade authorities are investigating reports that Samsung hired students to criticize rival phone maker HTC -- posting fake benchmark reviews and made-up reports of HTC phones "constantly crashing."

According to PC Advisor, Samsung's Taiwanese subsidiary has admitted that the incidents occurred. It called them "unfortunate" and put a statement on its Facebook page promising to "cease all marketing activities that involve the posting of anonymous comments."

If found guilty of false advertising, Samsung could face fines of up to of 25 million Taiwanese dollars ($836,000).

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