Samsung fined $340,000 for astroturfing in Taiwan

October 24, 2013, 11:48 AM UTC

FORTUNE — It has often been suggested that some of the comments critical of Apple (AAPL) on U.S. social media — including this blog — are posted by paid Samsung shills.

But there is no proof, and Samsung has certainly never owned up to it.

Samsung’s subsidiary in Taiwan, however, admitted in April that it had done just that to HTC, hiring students to post fake benchmark reviews of HTC’s latest smartphone and reporting — falsely — that they were “constantly crashing.”

On Thursday, according to the AP, Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission fined Samsung’s subsidiary 10 million Taiwanese dollars ($340,000) for defaming a rival.

Samsung got off cheap. The fines for such activity in Taiwan can run as high as 25 million Taiwanese dollars ($836,000).

To put those figures in perspective, Samsung’s 2012 budget for sales promotion and marketing was $5.3 billion.

DEFINITION: Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message (e.g. political, advertising, or public relations) to give the appearance of it coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant.

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