Big Tech struck back with a vengeance this week against the Redditers who pushed the GameStop stock surge, causing billions of dollars in losses for hedge fund short sellers.
Shortly after the stock trading app Robinhood froze all GameStop (GME) trading, Google removed close to 100,000 negative reviews from the Google Play Store that brought Robinhood down to a 1-star rating.
“Google is actively removing negative reviews of the Robinhood app from the Google Play Store,” The Verge reported. “After some disgruntled Robinhood users organized campaigns to give the app a one-star review on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store — and succeeded in review-bombing it all the way down to a one-star rating — the company has now deleted enough reviews to bring it back up to nearly four stars.”
“It’s not outside Google’s purview to delete these posts. Google’s policies explicitly prohibit reviews intended to manipulate an app’s rating, and the company says it has a system that ‘combines human intelligence with machine learning to detect and enforce policy violations in ratings and reviews,'” the report continued.
Google said it felt confident that the negative reviews, which came in direct response to Robinhood shutting its customers out, were in violation of the company’s policy. The temperature swelled to such sweltering levels on Thursday that a class-action lawsuit was filed against the trading app over alleged market manipulation.
“On or about January 27, 2021 Robinhood, in order to slow the growth of GME and deprived their customers of the ability to use their service, abruptly, purposefully, willfully, and knowingly pulled GME from their app,” the lawsuit said. “Meaning, retail investors could no longer buy or even search for GME on Robinhood’s app.”
Jeff Erez, a Miami lawyer who has represented clients against Robinhood before, told Bloomberg that the lawsuit will likely fail, given that Robinhood’s contract expressly states they can halt trading at any time.
“I’m looking at the Robinhood contract, and it says in black-and-white they can block or restrict trades at any time. I’m not aware of any law that would guarantee you a right to purchase a certain security at a certain brokerage firm,” said Erez.
Speaking with CNBC on Thursday, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev said that the GameStop stock freeze was not “at the direction of any marketmaker or hedge fund or anyone we route to or other market participants.”
“We had to make a very difficult decision. It’s been a challenging day,” said Tenev. “We made the decision in the morning to limit the buying of about 13 securities on our platform. So to be clear, customers could still sell those securities if they had positions in them, and they could also trade in the thousands of other securities on our platform. So it was a difficult decision, and that’s what we had to do as part of normal operations.”