The New York Times today unmasked celebrities and media figures who seek to inflate their importance by purchasing fake Twitter followers. An excerpt:
All these accounts belong to customers of an obscure American company named Devumi that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud. Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers, a New York Times investigation found.
These accounts are counterfeit coins in the booming economy of online influence, reaching into virtually any industry where a mass audience — or the illusion of it — can be monetized. Fake accounts, deployed by governments, criminals and entrepreneurs, now infest social media networks. By some calculations, as many as 48 million of Twitter’s reported active users — nearly 15 percent — are automated accounts designed to simulate real people, though the company claims that number is far lower.
In November, Facebook disclosed to investors that it had at least twice as many fake users as it previously estimated, indicating that up to 60 million automated accounts may roam the world’s largest social media platform. These fake accounts, known as bots, can help sway advertising audiences and reshape political debates. They can defraud businesses and ruin reputations. Yet their creation and sale fall into a legal gray zone.
Mediaite recaps some of the cited names:
The list includes sports-caster-turned-angry-conservative Britt McHenry, Breitbart‘s resident Benghazi sleuth Aaron Klein, Fox Business stocks person Elizaebth MacDonald, “cuckolding” expert Joe Concha, Infowars conspiracy crazy Millie “Pizzagate” Weaver, Forbes bro Richard Karlgaard, and even Capital-J Journalist Sharyn Alfonsi. Media types aside, former NFL player Ray Lewis, Ohio State football player Tate Martell, and ESPN employee Joey Galloway were also called out.
Others called out for buying fake followers include Steve Mnuchin’s gold-digging wife, Louise Litton. There’s much more at the first link.