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Fake app reviews earn developer a ban from Apple

NEW YORK - A developer has been banned from the iPhone App Store and had more than 1,000 of its apps removed after an eagle-eyed user noticed a spate of suspiciously similar reviews for its products.

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The story began when a specialist iPhone camera blog iPhoneography was contacted by a reader believing he had uncovered a series of fake reviews posted on applications that had all been developed by Molinker, a company that makes a huge range of apps covering everything from travel to chat-up lines.

A complaint was duly sent to Apple, which appears to have responded by pulling all of Molinker's apps from the App Store.

Glyn Evans, the blogger who initially broke the news is reporting that one of Apple's senior vice-presidents of worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller, has emailed to say: "Yes, this developer's apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either."

Apple had not responded to a request for a comment on the issue at the time of writing.

People downloading apps for their iPhones have the opportunity to give them a star rating from one to five, as well as to write a short review, report any problems with the app and share it with friends.

Other users can then read the reviews before making a decision to purchase, and apps with exceptionally good ratings will end up being featured at the front of the App Store.

The practice of giving fake reviews is known as "astroturfing", a term that has arisen from PR companies creating what appear to be "grassroots" support for a controversial issue.

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