Amazon Caught Deleting Negative EA DRM-Related Reviews… Again

from the uh-oh dept

You probably remember the uproar that surrounded the release of Spore, where plenty of people were pissed off at EA’s decision to use draconian DRM and made their feelings known via thousands of 1-star reviews on At one point, all of those reviews disappeared from the site, leading some to accuse Amazon of censoring the reviews. Amazon quickly said that it was a glitch and the reviews came back.

However, it appears that “glitch” has come back — and once again it’s for thousands of DRM complaints on an EA game. EA released Crysis Warhead with the same awful SecuROM DRM, and the reviews made that clear. But, just as with Spore, the Crysis Warhead reviews magically disappeared. Amazon is once again claiming that it was a glitch, just like last time. As the article notes, there is one possibility, which is that Amazon has an automated system that tries to flag spam reviews, and the actions of the DRM complainers triggers that mechanism. That would make some amount of sense, though Amazon shouldn’t keep calling it a glitch if that’s the case.

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Companies: amazon, ea

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Comments on “Amazon Caught Deleting Negative EA DRM-Related Reviews… Again”

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some old guy (user link) says:

It could be a glitch. I ...

It could be a glitch. I mean, if the mechanic is in place to catch bot networks, and massive rating spam is perceived to be a bot, then its a glitch.

The point of the mechanic would not be to suppress hysterical mobs. So if the implementation does accidentally perceive an angry mob to be a bot system, then you could indeed call that a glitch or bug or whatever word you want.

The point is: It’s clearly not intentional.

Amazon is not on the take from EA. Amazon is not doing EA a favor. Amazon is not trying to coverup the DRM scandals.

An undesirable result that was quickly remedied is far more likely a scenario.

However, since amazon is taking flack for this from the hysterical media, they might want to consider putting some more dev dollars into that algorithm. Squashing this bug in their code would relieve them of this headache.

Anonymous Coward says:

If:(1) the mechanic is in ...

(1) the mechanic is in place to stop bots
(2) the mechanic was told that ratings spam indicates bots
(3) the action of users looks like ratings spam

Then the mechanic’s removal of user reviews is not a glitch, it is operating as design (if maybe not exactly as desired). A glitch would be if the ratings reset after 65535 posts or something…

It’s also not clearly unintentional. I don’t know what kind of a relationship Amazon and EA have, and even if it’s unlikely that they have some kind of tight relationship, or unlikely that Amazon doesn’t have a reason to keep ratings (on some or all products) generally favorable — the fact that we don’t know is grounds enough to be suspicious, if you ask me.

That being said, I do think it’s likely to just be a glitch (though I wouldn’t be surprised to find i’m wrong), but if that’s so it’s something Amazon needs to fix in a perminent way.

Coyote says:

Anti-turfing measures?

If I were doing anti-spam for product reviews, I’d look for LOTS of 5-star or 1-star reviews that all said the same thing. A lot of the 1-star anti-DRM reviews are negative astroturf. Most of the reviewers never bought the game, they were just protesting DRM with the usual rhetoric.

It is credible, on a site as big as Amazon, that some automated measure flagged everything 1-star with “DRM” in it as spam.

That would qualify as a technical glitch.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anti-turfing measures?

as I said before Techdirt died…

(1) A mechanism were set up to stop bots,
(2) The mechanism were told that ratings spam indicated bots,
(3) User actions resembled ratings spam

Then said mechanism removing said rating would not be a glitch, it would be operation as designed. A glitch would be if the comments reset to zero after 65535 entries. The mechanism’s design may have caused a problem, but that’s not a glitch.

No Six Pack says:

Re: Anti-turfing measures?

Coyote -> “A lot of the 1-star anti-DRM reviews are negative astroturf. Most of the reviewers never bought the game, they were just protesting DRM with the usual rhetoric.”

Perhaps you do not know what astroturf means.

astroturf (from Urban Dictionary)

Creating the impression of public support by paying people in the public to pretend to be supportive.

The false support can take the form of letters to the editor, postings on message boards in response to criticism, and writing to politicians in support of the cause.

Astroturfing is the opposite of “grassroots”, genuine public support of an issue.

TriZz says:


From Wikipedia (I know, but it was easiest):

“Computer glitch

A computer glitch is the failure of a system, usually containing a computing device, to complete its functions or to perform them properly. It frequently refers to an error which is not detected at the time it occurs but shows up later in data errors or incorrect human decisions. While the fault is usually attributed to the computer hardware, this is often not the case since hardware failures rarely go undetected. Other situations which are frequently called computer glitches are:

* Incorrectly written software (software bug)
* Incorrect instructions given by the operator (operator error) (this might also be considered a software bug)
* Undetected invalid input data (this might also be considered a software bug)
* Undetected communications errors
* Computer viruses
* Computer security cracking (sometimes erroneously called “hacking”)
* Another human error unrelated to the computer”

I would say that “glitch” fits pretty well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Most users wouldn’t even know what DRM is much less why someone would complain about it. Instead the reviews are going to mislead people into thinking there is something wrong with the software. No one likes the idea of DRM mechanisms that phone home (ala Microsoft), but unfortunately they have become a necessary evil. If people never stole software there wouldn’t be any need for DRM. It’s funny, the people who complain the most about DRM are probably the ones who have the most pirated software on their machines.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No one likes the idea of DRM mechanisms that phone home (ala Microsoft), but unfortunately they have become a necessary evil.

If they’re such a “necessary evil,” care to explain why, exactly? It’s not like they’re really stopping piracy at all. I can understand having CD verification or key checking simply because it prevents casual copying (which some may construe as being legal, given how easy it is) but what’s being done now simply isn’t necessary.

To make matters worse, it’s ineffective. Care to explain why such methods are put in place when they’re guaranteed to fail?

Seriously, why is it that pirates are practically guaranteed to have an easier time to get a game up and running than legitimate customers? Why does the DRM nestle so deeply in the system that it’s literally impossible to remove with standard tools (referring, of course, to what SecuROM does to the Windows registry)? To be blunt, it’s complete and utter bullshit. The people who are giving products that use trash like this 1-star ratings are doing the Average Joes in the world a huge favor by at least alerting them to the problem.

All that the overzealous DRM solutions that have been coming out lately have been doing is either turning legitimate game buyers into software pirates or turning them off from buying games. It’s doing the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do.

craig d says:

@ Anonymous coward.

I’m one of the people who complains about the SecuROM DRM.

I have zero pirated games on my pc and have not pirated a game in about 20 years. I spend hundreds of dollars per year on games. All legal and above board.

And I’m really sick of people, like John Riccitiello and Anonymous Coward, engaging in ad hominem attacks on people like me who are legitimate customers who have decided that they will no longer tolerate invasive DRM measures like this. We are NOT the freaking pirates!

Consider: If I were a pirate I wouldn’t have anything to say about the DRM because I’d be playing the games without having to deal with the DRM at all! A DRM-free copy would only be a download away.

Why waste my time arguing with a bunch of arrogant executives at EA and Ubisoft over something I could solve by turning to crime?

Your assertion is not only wrong, but it just doesn’t even make one damned bit of sense.

So to paraphrase you:

It’s funny, but the ones who think the DRM protesters are pirates are the ones who appear to be the least informed about the issues.

mike42 (profile) says:

What really sucks...

Is that the bulk of game buyers really DON’T seem to care about the DRM. Spore is #1 in sales, and expected to stay there for some time. I’m with craig d, I spend hundreds of dollars a year on games, and all of them above board. I also buy used games, and I would never touch a title that wanted to put a rootkit on my machine!

Consumers are voting with their wallets. craig d and I are in the minority, and the bulk of the gamers will happily and blindly install whatever it takes to play that big, bad game, and, “I told you so” is hardly a consolation when the virus that utilizes the kit wipes out everyone’s hard drive.

Then again, can Joe Sixpack be expected to know that he is getting a rootkit implanted in his OS? I think a big orange sticker stating “Overly invasive DRM required for installation” should be placed on every box. Since “98.8%” of the gamers don’t care about DRM, it won’t hurt their sales at all, right?

Kinda reminds me of the Monty Python skit…

Grady says:

@ AC 13

Did it occur to you that some of us pirate games because of the DRM? Some of us won’t spend 60$ for a game we can only play for a limited because some of can’t keep track of stupid CD-Keys, or don’t want to have to worry about whether a server will be up to “verify” a copy of a game a year from now.

I’ve had DRM crash my computer. Why? Because it tried to isolate the game, my Firewall (Comodo) registered this as a hi-jack attempt, and in the ensuing battle, my anti-virus shut my system to protect itself. Again, why would I want to spend ~60$ on something I can’t play?

CN says:

I'm not a pirate... I care about DRM.

Like craig d, I have purchased all of my PC games. And I hate DRM.

Most users wouldn’t even know what DRM is

Probably true… until they run afoul of it. Maybe even then they won’t truly understand it.

they have become a necessary evil. If people never stole software there wouldn’t be any need for DRM.

The problem is, DRM doesn’t stop people from stealing software. It does impact people who pay for software.

I have had Windows Media Player refuse to play legitimate DVDs because of “DRM issues”. I have had games (SW:KOTOR) refuse to play because it decided I had “Daemon Tools” on my computer (and I did not, hadn’t even heard of it up until that point). I have had games take over an hour to install, with my CD/DVD drive clanking and banging away the whole time.

I am sick and tired of it! I reinstall old games to replay from time to time. Limited activations will eliminate this. I work on a boat for a month at a time with no internet to activate software, or even look online for a work-around.

It’s bad enough to have to put up with this crap as a paying customer. Then to see that it doesn’t stop the pirates and they don’t have to deal with DRM. That makes me pretty sour.

“It’s funny, the people who complain the most about DRM are probably the ones who have the most pirated software on their machines.”

That’s absurd. If DRM was something for pirates to complain about, they probably wouldn’t have much pirated software at all. The average pirate isn’t the one removing the DRM anyway. They simply download and install. They should be the ones who are least concerned about DRM. They don’t have any of it.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: I'm not a pirate... I care about DRM.

I have had Windows Media Player refuse to play legitimate DVDs because of “DRM issues”.

I don’t know about now, but Windows Media Player never came with DVD decoder software built-in. If you had WinDVD, CyberDVD, or something like that it would usually enable playback within WMP.

If you don’t have any of that software available and don’t want to shell out additional money for it, I recommend giving VLC a shot. It works well and is much lighter than most of the commercial players out there.

John (profile) says:


Amazon has no relation with EA?
How about the fact that EA sells tons of games through Amazon and Amazon gets a percentage of the sales? So, if Amazon sees a dip in sales and EA doesn’t like it and EA decides to pull all of their games, what happens? Yep- Amazon doesn’t get a cut of the millions of EA games sold.

I’m not saying this is the reason the “glitch” occurred, but it’s something to consider.

Second (and I saw this mentioned in another posting), why don’t the software companies use anti-piracy techniques from years ago: have the user type a word or code found in the manual. There’s no rootkit, no SecureRom, and nothing on the computer. All legally-paying customers will have the manual and will have no problem finding the code.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Hmm...

Funny you should mention the old code card method. A semi-recent game (if I remember correctly it came out in 2004) called Uplink, by Introversion Software, uses a code card as its only form of copy protection.

I don’t really think that code cards are all that viable nowadays, especially with scanners being as good as they are. Older games generally used light colored text on a white background to foil copy machines and old scanners. Those would fail with any sub-$100 scanner nowadays, obviously. Uplink’s code card also fails for a similar reason — it has glossy-black lettering on a matte-black background, so duplicating it is still fairly simple with a little bit of setting mangling.

Long story short, no large publishers are going to be willing to rely on a method like this. It’s also quite a bit less convenient on the user end than, say, using a key disc.

John says:

Amazon and Barnes and noble deleted every comment I’ve ever made. And these comments were about to completely different books. Of course it leads me to beleive thaty they do not have gopod ethical practices and as such I refuse to support them financially. with either company. Try looking up a few random books and tell me how many bad or even mediocre reveiews there are. They seem to be standing up for the the companis and authors they propmote and sell.

“Amazon is not on the take from EA. Amazon is not doing EA a favor. Amazon is not trying to coverup the DRM scandals.”

They may not be on the take but they do make money for every sale, so they do have a reason to delete bad reviews.

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