GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS for Facebook. The good news is that some people absolutely love the company's privacy-invading smart speaker, Portal. The bad news? It's mainly their own employees, and they've been writing reviews on Amazon without disclosing the conflict of interest. Whoops.
The New York Times' Kevin Roose spotted a number of Facebook employees' names attached to Amazon reviews of the Facebook Portal offering such comments as "the camera tracking is AMAZING" and "I would recommend this product to anyone."
Most bafflingly of all, Tim Chappell - who may or may not be the company's head of supply-chain and strategic sourcing for AR/VR products - began his review by confessing he doesn't use Facebook much.
Speaking of coordinated inauthentic behavior, what are the odds that all these 5-star Facebook Portal reviewers on Amazon just happen to have the same names as Facebook employees? pic.twitter.com/bF7U8Fj5kN— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) January 17, 2019
"I have historically not been a big Facebook or other social media user," he begins before launching a batshit-crazy logical leap: "But I took a chance and got 4 Portals and 1 Portal plus for the family just before Thanksgiving." It is, he concludes, "so much better than just a plan [sic.] phone call."
Javier Cubria - who may or may not be an event marketer at Facebook - was short and to the point: "Has worked really well for me so far," he wrote.
"The sound quality is pretty impressive for such a tiny device," enthuses Oren Hafif - who may or may not be a security engineer at Facebook. But he did offer a minor criticism: "the device currently lacks support for more apps and uses," he wrote. Sleep with one eye open, Oren.
If these are actually Facebook employees, then the company has been pretty stingy: all three are verified purchases, meaning they were bought via Amazon. No company discount for you, drones.
It could have all just been a coincidence, but it doesn't look like it. Responding to Roose's post, Andrew Bosworth - who definitely is Facebook's vice president of augmented reality and virtual reality - tweeted that the posts were not on Facebook's orders.
"From an internal post at the launch: ‘We, unequivocally, DO NOT want Facebook employees to engage in leaving reviews for the products that we sell to Amazon,'" he wrote. "We will ask them to take down."
neither coordinated nor directed from the company. From an internal post at the launch: "We, unequivocally, DO NOT want Facebook employees to engage in leaving reviews for the products that we sell to Amazon." We will ask them to take down.— Boz (@boztank) January 17, 2019
Even with this extra support, it doesn't look like Facebook Portal is selling very well. Amazon's best-selling list has it in 33rd place in the hotly-contested inputs category. It's currently losing to a pack of replacement Surface Pen tips, a lot of styluses and a mouse. µ
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