A year after the New York Times delved into Twitter’s rampant fake-follower problem, New York attorney general Letitia James announced a settlement over the selling of fake likes and followers. It is, according to a release from James’s office, the first settlement in the country declaring the “selling fake social media engagement and using stolen identities to engage in online activity is illegal.” The settlement involves multiple platforms, including YouTube and Twitter.
“Bots and other fake accounts have been running rampant on social media platforms, often stealing real people’s identities to carry out fraud,” James said. “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.”
Devumi, in case you’re not familiar with the world of bogus social-media engagement for purchase, is an artificial-engagement company featured prominently in the Times investigation. (The company “ceased operation” in 2018 after James opened her investigation.) It’s reach at its peak, however, was significant, with users in all 50 states. The Chicago Sun-Times suspended film critic Richard Roeper after it was discovered some 25,000 of his 200,000 Twitter followers had been purchased from Devumi. Following initial reports, Twitter purged over a million fake accounts from the platform.