The New York Times outs a bunch of celebrities who've paid for fake Twitter followers
Social media is pretty complicated...
An extensive report by the New York Times has revealed the shady business of buying and selling fake followers and bots on social media, exposing several public figures in the process.
Shining a light on social media's "black market", the investigation names the likes of actor John Leguizamo, American Idol contestant Clay Aiken, computer billionaire Michael Dell, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, model and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland, French musician DJ Snake, American Ninja Warrior host Akbar Gbajabiamila and Twitter board member Martha Lane Fox amongst those faking it.
In the case of Aiken, he used his fake followers to boost complaints about his new car.
— Clay Aiken (@clayaiken) August 12, 2015
The fake followers in question come from Devumi; a marketing company that aims to "accelerate your social media growth", promising a "guaranteed boost" for your platform.
Devumi claims to be based in Manhattan, but is actually run out of West Palm Beach, Florida by a 27-year-old man named German Calas, who is described in the report as having a persona that is "a mixture of fact and fantasy".
Devumi sells Twitter followers - copycats of real people and complete fakes - and retweets to celebrities, politicians, businesses, and anyone who is looking to appear hugely popular and influential online.
At the time of the New York Times exposé, the company has at least 3.5 million automated accounts - sold over and over again - and has provided customers with over 200 million Twitter followers to date.
The publication of the report has led to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman taking an interest. Schneiderman announced - on Twitter, of course - that he and his team will be opening an investigation into Devumi and its practices.
Impersonation and deception are illegal under New York law. We’re opening an investigation into Devumi and its apparent sale of bots using stolen identities. https://t.co/uvxGOp7soQ
— NY AG Underwood (@NewYorkStateAG) January 27, 2018
Twitter themselves made a statement, condemning the actions of Devumi.
The tactics used by Devumi on our platform and others as described by today's NYT article violate our policies and are unnacceptable to us. We are working to stop them and any companies like them.
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) January 27, 2018
As the New York Times report notes, Twitter and other social media platforms prohibit the buying of followers, yet Devumi is not an isolated case.
"Social media companies, whose market value is closely tied to the number of people using their services, make their own rules about detecting and eliminating fake accounts."
One to keep an eye on, anyway.