An in-depth New York Times report published on Saturday has outed thousands of famous people including actors, athletes, reality TV stars, politicians, musicians, business people, models, and more, for buying millions of fake Twitter followers.
The report documents social media’s shady “black market” where companies sell fake followers and bots used to exaggerate the popularity of one’s Twitter profile.
Specifically, the report calls out a company named Devumi. Devumi’s website claims they can “quickly gain followers, viewers, likes and more” using their “blend of marketing tactics.” The company also boasts, “From trending tweets, to viral videos. We make it happen.”
Famous people named in the report as having used Devumi to purchase fake Twitter followers include former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis, computer magnate Michael Dell, actor John Leguizamo, musician DJ Snake, Sons of Anarchy star Ryan Hurst, former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken, American Ninja Warrior host Akbar Gbajabiamila, Twitter board member Martha Lane Fox, and model/entrepreneur Kathy Ireland.
Ireland went from 160,000 followers in January of 2017 to over a million followers today after an employee supposedly went rogue and purchased them without her knowledge. Martha Lane Fox also blamed a “rogue” employee.
Numerous social media “influencers” were also linked to buying fake followers from Devumi.
However, according to the report, Devumi sells Twitter followers that are made up of copies of the profiles of real people as well as completely fabricated Twitter accounts.
One woman, Jessica Rychly, claims the report, had her name and image used on a fake Twitter account to promote cryptocurrency, real estate and pornography.
According to the Times, Devumi, which says it is based in Manhattan, but actually operates out of West Palm Beach, has at least 3.5 million automated accounts and has sold more than 200 million Twitter followers to their customers.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that he will be opening an investigation into Devumi and its practices. Of course, he made that announcement on… Twitter.
Devumi founder German Calas, 27, denied selling fake Twitter followers in an email to the Times last November, saying, “The allegations are false, and we do not have knowledge of any such activity.”
Calas also posted a résumé online in 2014 claiming to have degrees from Princeton and MIT. Both schools have no record of him, and one of the degrees he claims doesn’t exist at that university.
The Times even signed up with Devumi as a customer, buying 25,000 Twitter followers for just $225. They also sell YouTube views, plays on SoundCloud and endorsements on LinkedIn.
For their part, Twitter did issue a response to the Times exposé.
Good luck with that.
Read the entire story right here.