NY Attorney General Declares War on Fake Followers, Likes, Hidden Endorsements, and ‘Online Deception’
With so much disinformation spreading online with the help of bought influencers, no one is talking about all the bots and fake followers.
The controversy surrounding the sham Fyre Festival and its promotion online has the New York Attorney General’s Office turning over rocks and shining a bright light on fake promotion online.
New York AG Letitia James announced a settlement today prohibiting companies like Devumi from using fake activity and false accounts on social media. The now-prosecuted Devumi is just one of many that sell fake followers, likes, and views on many popular social media platforms.
That fake endorsement is then used to promote content and products.
The settlement is a first for law enforcement agencies tackling fake social media engagement and stolen identity use online.
“Bots and other fake accounts have been running rampant on social media platforms, often stealing real people’s identities to carry out fraud,” said James.
“As people and companies like Devumi continue to make a quick buck by lying to honest Americans, my office will continue to find and stop anyone who sells online deception. With this settlement, we are sending a clear message that anyone profiting off of deception and impersonation is breaking the law and will be held accountable.”
Of course, fake followers, streams, and other shenanigans are commonplace in the music industry. Especially when followers and data can mean everything to an artist’s career. But so far, companies pedaling goods like fake Spotify streams have yet to face cops like James.
Devumi sold bot operated accounts on several different platforms including Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, SoundCloud, and Pinterest.
The accounts operated by the company pretended to be real people promoting products they were paid to promote. Some accounts were event dormant ‘real’ accounts hacked using password repositories available online.
Devumi ceased operations last year after the NY AG announced their investigation. Letitia James says that she will continue to pursue those who engage in this type of fraud online.
Ultimately, the AG’s settlement says that Devumi deceived three parties through their activity.
That includes those who bought endorsement and those who saw the endorsements promoted online, but also social media platforms themselves. Social networks prohibit fraudulent activity in their conduct of use policies, but are often lax in their enforcement.