The New York state attorney general’s office on Wednesday announced a $50,000 settlement with a company that made millions of dollars selling fake followers and engagement to social media users seeking to boost their online profiles.
The settlement between New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) and now-defunct social media company Devumi is one of the first legal actions in the U.S. cracking down on the practice of selling bot followers and fake “likes.”
It is the first finding by a law enforcement agency that it is illegal to sell fake social media engagement.
Devumi, which operated from 2015 to 2017, sold fake followers, “likes,” views and influencer endorsements to customers on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud and more. The company’s customers, numbering roughly in the hundreds of thousands, included actors, academics, professional athletes, models and media figures, according to the settlement.
Devumi earned revenues of around $15 million during its short-lived existence, the settlement says.
Just like in the US, Kenyan law does not provide for fake followers on social media platforms and speak to its legality or lack thereof. It may be perceived to be fraud and false advertising but proving that using a legal instrument that did not envision that scenario would be difficult.
Mid last year, Twitter cracked down and conducted an audit of its users in an attempt to remove fake followers which saw millions of accounts deleted. In Kenya, a number of Twitter bigwigs saw their follower numbers drop, some marginally while others lost significantly. Read more on this here.
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