The technology firm removed at least 100,000 negative user ratings of the stock trading app on its Play Store platform. Robinhood’s four-star rating as of Jan. 28 fell to just one star the next day as a result of users rating it poorly. But as of writing, Google has reverted the app to its original four-star rating at the Play Store.
Google stated that it took action against “coordinated or inorganic” user reviews. It refused to elaborate on how it determined if a Play Store review was inorganic or not. Further requests for comment sent to the technology giant went unanswered. But Google policy states that manipulating an app’s score by spamming five-star or one-star reviews is prohibited.
The company talked about its rules on app ratings in a December 2018 blog post. The said post explained that Google uses a system that “combines human intelligence with machine learning” to monitor and penalize violations related to app ratings and reviews. “User trust is a top priority for us at Google Play, and we are continuously working to make sure that the ratings and reviews shown in our store are not being manipulated,” it continued.
Negative reviews, backlash from Robinhood blocking trading of GameStop stock
Google’s removal of Robinhood’s one-star reviews follows the trading app blocking users from buying so-called “volatile” stocks from certain companies. These firms with “volatile” stocks such as electronics retailer GameStop, movie theater chain AMC and software firm BlackBerry were promoted in the Reddit WallStreetBets discussion community. Users angered by the trading platform’s decision called on other Reddit users to flood the app with one-star reviews in retribution.
The Robinhood stock trading app became the center of the WallStreetBets fiasco in late January 2021: Most of the community’s users traded stocks via the platform. It has gained popularity among investors with little to no experience in online stock trading.
A group of WallStreetBets users noticed that hedge fund Melvin Capital had planned to short GameStop, anticipating huge profits from buying back shares. In response, the users launched a campaign to buy up shares from different companies – including that of the struggling retailer. The users’ investments caused the price of GameStop stock to soar rapidly.
Investors who purchased GameStop shares raked in windfall profits. On the other hand, hedge funds and other institutions who bet on falling GameStop share prices saw losses amounting as much as $19 billion as of Jan. 29.
Robinhood accused of taking away power from the people
Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter, slamming Robinhood’s decision to block the purchases of shares from different companies as “unacceptable.” She continued: “We now need to know more about [Robinhood’s] decision to block retail investors from purchasing stock, while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit.” (Related: Criminal Wall Street oligarchs stifle populist trading movement that sent GameStop stocks soaring.)
Some users have brought their grievance against the stock trading platform a notch higher – by means of a class-action lawsuit. Law firm ChapmanAlbin LLC announced Jan. 28 that it is “investigating claims on behalf of Robinhood users … [who] suffered losses as a result of investing” through the app.
Meanwhile, Facebook took down the group Robinhood Stock Traders for an alleged infraction of the social media site’s community standards. The Facebook group’s founder slammed the suspension of the 157,000-strong stock trading community as “unjustified.” Chicago resident Allen Tran told Reuters that the group was “first on the picking tree to be cut off.” He also slammed the social media site, saying that it was “not a free platform like Reddit.”
Tran wrote in a separate Facebook post: “The major institutions are attempting to silence our community. We are positively impacting people’s lives and they are attacking our group because we are more powerful than them.”
Responding to Reuters, Facebook spokeswoman Kristen Morea said Tran’s group “was removed for violating [the platform’s] community standards” and had nothing to do with the ongoing stock market fiasco. She did not respond to requests to elaborate. Robinhood Stock Traders was previously suspended in early January 2021 for being a “dangerous organization.” But the group’s suspension was later lifted after Tran lodged an appeal.
Visit Risk.news to read more news about the WallStreetBets stock market issue.