Company selling social media ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ settles with US authorities
Today, a company that sold social media ‘likes’ and ‘followers,’ settled its legal case with the New York’s Attorney General Office in the first-ever criminal investigation of its kind.
The company, Devumi LLC, operated the now-defunct devumi.com website, where it sold likes and views on YouTube, Vimeo, and SoundCloud, endorsements on LinkedIn, pins on Pinterest, and likes, retweets, and Twitter followers.
While social media influencers and celebrities knew about the site for many years, and some of them even used it to boost their online presence, the site was brought into the public’s attention after a New York Time exposé in January 2018.
The NYT article sparked an immediate investigation into Devumi’s fraudulent business by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Her office found that Devumi sold both bot (automated) and sock-puppet (human-operated) accounts. Furthermore, investigators also found that Devumi sold accounts and online activity that they’ve illegally copied from real accounts, including their real avatars and content.
Both were seen as criminal behavior because the bot accounts helped generate interest or tricked companies into buying advertising or product placements with social media celebrities that faked their follower numbers.
Seeing the writing on the wall that would have lead to a long legal case, Devumi representatives signed a settlement with the New York Attorney General Office to make the case go away, on the promise that it and all related companies and associates would stop engaging in any similar practices.
Devumi, in the meantime, has ceased operations months before, claiming that the NYT article generated a drop in sales, with social media users going to rival companies, fearing they might be exposed for buying likes and followers like the celebrities named in the Times piece.
These included John Leguizamo (actor), Michael Dell (Dell owner), Ray Lewis (retired NFL player), Kathy Ireland (model and actress), Akbar Gbaja-Biamila (host of the “American Ninja Warrior” show), and, ironically, even Martha Lane Fox (Twitter board member).