WeTab CEO resigns after fake Amazon reviews emerge

The CEO of the German firm behind the iPad competitor “WeTab” has stepped down after it was exposed this week he covertly wrote glowing reviews of the tablet PC on Amazon, the online retailer confirmed on Tuesday.

WeTab CEO resigns after fake Amazon reviews emerge
Von Ankershoffen presents the product. Photo: DPA

“I must correct my previous review – The WeTab is not good, but very, very good,” a person identified as “Peter Glaser” enthused about the new product recently.

But blogger Richard Gutjahr looked into Glaser’s profile to find that he was actually head of the gadget maker Helmut Hoffer von Ankershoffen, who had apparently forgotten to hid his tracks. Gutjahr also connected another positive review with von Ankershoffen’s wife’s account.

The CEO resigned on Monday evening due to the scandal.

Amazon removed the false praise immediately, a spokesperson said.

“Compared to the entirety of our reviews, attempts at manipulation are very seldom,” she added.

Von Ankershoffen apologised for the incident on Monday evening and announced his resignation as leader of the company.

“I wrote both of the Amazon reviews in question privately, without approval from the other company leaders or our communications department,” he said, adding that he stood by the content in the reviews.

“It was, however, a mistake not to put my own name on the ratings,” he said.

The WeTab, formerly called the “WePad,” was designed to bridge the gap between the publishing world and the internet while competing with Apple’s popular iPad.

With an 11.6-inch display, the touch-screen WeTab is slightly bigger than the 9.7-inch iPad. It also offers features not available for the iPad – a camera, two USB plugs and a memory card slot. It will run a version of Google’s open operating system Android.

Unlike the iPad, the WeTab allows publishers to choose their own paid content parameters without going through a gateway like Apple’s iBookstore.

The company had hoped its new product would appeal to elderly users, who are also a “core target group” of newspaper and magazine publishers and have limited experience with technology.

But the product, developed by Neofonie, was met with a number of critical reviews upon its release in September.


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Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row

Google's legal tussle with French regulators continues.

Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row
Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

Google on Wednesday said it is appealing a decision by France’s competition watchdog to hand it a €500m fine in a row with news outlets over the use of their content under EU copyright rules.

“We disagree with some of the legal elements, and consider the amount of the fine to be disproportionate compared to the efforts we have put in place to reach a deal and respect the new law,” Sebastien Missoffe, head of Google France, said in a statement.

The fine, issued by the French Competition Authority in July, was the biggest in the agency’s history for a failure to comply with one of its rulings.

Head of Google France, Sebastien Missoffe, has hit back against French regulators (Photo by JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP)

The watchdog said Google had failed to negotiate “in good faith” with media companies in a long-running legal battle over the internet giant’s use of snippets of articles, photos and videos in search results.

The row has centred on claims that Google has used this content in its search results without adequate compensation, despite the seismic shift of global advertising revenues towards the search giant over the past two decades.

In April last year, the French competition authority ordered Google to negotiate “in good faith” with media groups after it refused to comply with a 2019 European Union law governing digital copyright.

The so-called “neighbouring rights” aim to ensure that news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.

Last September, French news publishers including Agence France-Presse (AFP) filed a complaint with regulators, saying Google was refusing to move forward on paying to display content in web searches.

While Google insists it has made progress, the French regulator said the company’s behaviour “indicates a deliberate, elaborate and systematic lack of respect” for its order to negotiate in good faith.

The Competition Authority rebuked Google for failing to “have a specific discussion” with media companies about neighbouring rights during negotiations over its Google Showcase news service, which launched late last year.

Missoffe insisted Wednesday that Google “recognises neighbouring rights, and we remain committed to signing agreements in France”.

“We have extended our offers to nearly 1,200 publishers and modified aspects of our contracts,” he said, adding that the company has “shared data demanded of us in order to conform to the Competition Authority’s decision”.