Google Finally Cleans Up Play Store; Removes Millions Of Bad Reviews, Thousands Of Apps

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Google removed millions of bad reviews from the Google Play Store in at least one recent week as well as thousands of applications discovered through policy-breaking reviews and is now looking to users and developers to help in similar efforts. The reviews and apps that were removed were spotted by the company's Google Play Trust & Safety teams thanks to a new tool introduced over the course of 2018 meant to help weed out misleading or similarly unhelpful reviews. The tool incorporates machine learning in tandem with real people, actively looking for and responding to policy violations on top of more stringent rules. Bad reviews include those that contain profane language or are deliberately hurtful or off-topic as well as those that are simply false or made in a bid to manipulate rankings. The term additionally covers reviews that are placed on the Play Store in exchange for monetary gain or other rewards for the reviewing user — including in-app items given away in exchange for high marks.

Background: User reviews and other Google Play Store-related feedback are a primary driver for applications and games as well as movies, books, and music listed on Android's de facto marketplace. On top of Google's own ranking system, those reviews and responses to polls embedded on the Play Store not only assist the search giant in making its year-end or holiday lists for top contenders. They serve the added purpose of playing a role in application recommendations that appear on the store for individual users and other lists or rankings that show up for every user. The honesty of reviews is vitally important to that, as with any other market for goods or services. As alluded to above, a suspicious review or series of wayward reviews can have the added benefit of helping Googlers spot and take down apps that might be misleading in their advertisement or published with outright malicious intent. The Google Play Store, as a general rule of thumb, is the safest place to download and install apps despite that some bad software still makes it through.

Impact: Google has always and continues to look to its users for assistance in keeping the Play Store safe and navigable without hassle. For users, some key guidelines provided by the company include resisting the temptation to accept money or other rewards in return for leaving high ratings or reviews but it also includes keeping unnecessary profanity or otherwise unconstructive language to a minimum. As tempting as it might be to leave a very negative review or go off on a tangent, that simply isn't helpful and there's a good chance the review will simply be removed. Following that same vein, users should avoid posting sexually explicit, unreadable, or otherwise needlessly wordy reviews. Developers should avoid paying out to users in exchange for reviews and shouldn't offer either in-app items or currency either. Manipulating a ranking through fake 5-star ratings or sabotaging another developer with 1-star ratings is against policy as are any number of other violations in the Google Play Developer Policy guidelines.

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