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PR agency caught bribing developers to promote Samsung’s Smart App Challenge in forum posts

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Android developer Delyan Kratunov has taken to his blog to expose what he believes to be underhanded tactics by Samsung to help promote their upcoming developer competition online. According to Kratunov, he was contacted by PR firm Fllu representing Samsung who offered him a cool $500 for his Android expertise, only he wouldn’t actually be developing anything. Fllu’s proposition to Kratunov was him jumping onto the Stacks Overflow community website for developers, and asking a series of 4 casual questions — provided by Fllu — over the course of 30 days, to help spread the word about Samsung Smart App Challenge. Best part of the email is as follows:

“All we need you to do is talk about the SSAC (Samsung Smart App Challenge) and get the word out. How? We were thinking about 4 questions on Stackoverflow over the span of a month….. as well as replies to posts made by other members. Don’t worry about finding the questions to reply to because we will send you links. The questions should be casual and organic. Like ‘Anyone know anything about SSAC?’ or…’Need some feedback on the app I am about to enter for the Samsung Smart App Challenge.’”

After this information went public, Kratunov received another email, something to the tune of, “Oops, this is in violation of Stack Overflow’s policies. Never mind.” (Not a direct quote). While spammy tactics like this are not uncommon in tech, it’s just somewhat surprising to see this from Samsung (even if they weren’t directly involved in this entire email exchange). These sorta things happen, we get it.

Samsung was quick to deny any knowledge of wrongdoing, and cancelling plans after becoming aware of the situation. Turns out Fllu was working for another agency who works for Samsung, so its entirely possible Samsung was telling us the truth. Samsung had this to say on the matter:

“We remain committed to engaging in transparent and honest communications with consumers.”

As smartphone vendors to continue to grow, OEM’s like Samsung are looking towards the future of application development and apps that are exclusive to their line of devices to give them that extra edge. We’ve seen some of this with Samsung and Chillingo’s 100% Indie campaign where Samsung was promising developers who published apps to the Samsung Apps store 100% app revenue for the first 6 months. Curious to hear your guys’ thoughts on this.

[The Verge 1, 2]