With the Russian investigation heating up to polarizing levels and the onslaught of fake news on social media potentially having cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election, a new report shows that fake news is not the only problem that people have to worry about. It appears as though a "fake follower" company has a more credible hand in the social media industry than many may have previously thought.
In a new report by a team of reporters with the New York Times, it appears as though a company named Devumi may also be playing both ends of the political spectrum with the services they offer, which include getting specific people or companies massive amounts of followers as well as using the fake accounts to like, retweet, and engage with other followers on behalf of the account that paid for the fake followers.
That means that the problem is not just with the conservative provocateurs, but also with left-wing groups as well as possible Russia-backed accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. But the problem is that there is no real law being broken here, at least no law currently on the books. They might be committing fraud, but it is nearly impossible to prove with intent.
A @nytimes team uncovered a global black market in social identity theft.The customers? Some of your favorite reality TV stars, actors, pundits, and professional athletes. https://t.co/YBS5H6rBB0In the new report, The New York Times has revealed that political figures, Super PACs, and Russians are not the only ones cashing in on the "fake followers" phenomenon. Famous people like John Leguizamo and Kathy Ireland (to name a few) have also used the service to boost their follower counts on Twitter. To make this easier to understand as to why, their follower counts translate into real world money as influencers who companies pay to tweet endorsements for their products.
— Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) January 27, 2018
Kathy Ireland, who was used as an example in the report, has over a million followers on Twitter with the help of Devumi. The way that translates into money for Ms. Ireland is when she tweets out an endorsement of a specific brand, through her endorsement deals, she gets paid for the influencer dollars she might bring in. But in hindsight, many of those "people" that are liking or retweeting her tweets are actually bots from Devumi who are doing this on her behalf, presumably to boost and maintain her influencer status.
To make matters worse, the NYT report also did a test and bought followers from the service, paying $225 for 25,000 followers, and found that Devumi has also cloned real people's names and likeness to establish these bot accounts.
For those reading this report, it may be a good idea to do a search on Twitter to make sure that you yourself have not been cloned. If you have, you can report that account to Twitter, given they are the only one that can do anything about it.