At Talkspace, Startup Culture Collides With Mental Health Concerns

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    The therapy-by-text company Talkspace — which has raised more than $100 million from investors — made burner phones available for fake reviews and doesn’t adequately respect client privacy, former employees say. From a report: The app launched in 2014 to positive press but lukewarm customer reviews, with ratings of about three stars out of five on both the Google and Apple app stores, according to a Times analysis. Users complained about glitchy software and unresponsive therapists. In 2015 and 2016, according to four former employees, the company sought to improve its ratings: It asked workers to write positive reviews. One employee said that Talkspace’s head of marketing at the time asked him to compile 100 fake reviews in a Google spreadsheet, so that employees could submit them to app stores. Mr. Lori (an ex-employee) said that Talkspace gave employees “burner” phones to help evade the app stores’ techniques for detecting false reviews. “They said, ‘Don’t do it here. Do it at home. Give us five-star ratings because we have too many bad reviews,'” Mr. Lori said. Mr. Reilly, the Talkspace lawyer, disputed this account, saying that employees were free to write reviews any way they liked. “We alerted employees if they were to leave a review, to do it from their personal phones — not from the Talkspace office network, as that would cause issues with the app store,” Mr. Reilly said in an emailed statement. “To be clear: We have never used fake identities or encouraged anybody to do so; there is no event involving ‘burner’ phones, and the idea in and of itself is nonsensical relative to the large number of reviews outstanding.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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