A year ago, the New York Times reported that an obscure company called Devumi were obtaining millions of dollars by selling fake likes follows and retweets. These were being sold to celebrities, businesses or anyone who wanted to bolster their social media presence. This week, the New York Attorney General announced that such fake social media engagement is illegal.
The announcement of the settlement by New York Attorney General Letitia James, is the first in the US. It finds that selling fake followers and likes is illegal deception and fake engagement via stolen identities is also illegal.
The decision stops companies like Devumi LLC and its offshoot companies Disrupt X Inc, Social Bull and Bytion from engaging in this business.
Company owner Calas Jr. pleaded no contest to the charges and agreed to a $50,000 fine. His company has been earning around $15 million a year until it folded in August or September. The company ceased after receiving negative publicity following reports that the Attorney General investigated.
Attorney General James stated that Devumi sold social media engagement that was generated by bot and sockpuppet accounts. The company would buy these bots from various makers across the web, sometimes from as little as one dollar. One such maker was Peakerr, who sold 1,000 high-quality English language bots with photos. Devumi would then go on to sell these bots for $17.
A New York Times investigation found that Devumi sold around 200 million Twitter followers to at least 39,000 buyers in just a few years. These transactions accounted for a third of the company’s sales.
James also stated that Devumi was also using fake followers, likes and other engagement from bot accounts or one person pretending to be many, known as sockpuppets.
James said: “They’re not real. They’re paid for, they’re manufactured, and they’re out to deceive people.”
Last year, Twitter responded to the NTY investigation, stating:
“The tactics used by Devumi on our platform and others as described by today’s NYT article violate our policies and are unacceptable to us. We are working to stop them and any companies like them.”