Precedent-Setting Case Rules It Illegal to Buy and Sell Followers and Likes

Feb 2019

security, camera, personal violation,It’s safe to say that a lot of us have become obsessed with the number of followers and “likes” our content receives.  Many users have even gone so far as to purchase fake followers and “likes” to boost their credibility. One American company went to extreme measures to fulfill their “at least 55,000” account promise to their high-profile customers by including personal information of real people. As a result, legal matters were taken, and their way of doing business took a huge hit. Here are the details.


Devumi LLC made millions of dollars selling likes, comments, and followers on social media (primarily on Twitter). However, it was discovered that they “borrowed” information from real people to create their bogus accounts and the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation. In a tweet announcing the investigation, Attorney General Schneiderman said:


Impersonation and deception are illegal under New York law. We’re opening an investigation into Devumi and its apparent sale of bots using stolen identities.


While bots themselves aren’t illegal, the use of detail information of real people is, and some of them weren’t legal adults.  The NY Attorney General’s office recently reached a settlement with Devumi and released this statement:


Attorney General Letitia James today announced a precedent-setting settlement over the sale of fake followers, “likes,” and views on social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube, using fake activity from false accounts. The settlement prohibits Devumi LLC and related companies (“Devumi”) from engaging in any of the same misconduct going forward. This settlement marks the first finding by a law enforcement agency that selling fake social media engagement and using stolen identities to engage in online activity is illegal.


This should serve as a warning to any brands thinking of relying on this type of forged engagement.  Social media platforms have taken several strides to crack down on fake accounts in the past. Just last summer, Twitter removed 128 million followers in its spam removal process. It does beg the question: why don’t they do more to screen for spam accounts in the first place? And will there be more legal actions taken in the future?   As we always recommend to clients and our audience, authenticity is key to successful social media. Nearly everyone can see through the fake followers and fake “likes.”  The only true way to get that engagement is to be engaging, offer something relevant to your audience, and have real-time conversations with them.


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