Prominent Twitter users have collectively lost over a million followers as a result of federal and state inquiries into fake accounts.
Entertainers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and media figures have all lost a significant number of followers. One thing they have in common is many of them bought followers from a company called Devumi.
Twitter has vowed to take action on Devumi, but declined to comment on whether or not it is purging fake accounts. Followers began to vanish after the New York Times published an article over the weekend exposing social media’s “black market.”
According to NYT, virtually all the followers provided by Devumi are fake despite the company promising active, English followers. However, buying followers of any kind on Twitter is strictly prohibited, whether they’re bots or real people.
Federal and state lawmakers are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Devumi and similar companies for “deceptive and unfair marketing practices.” Devumi is also under investigation by Florida and New York attorney generals.
There is evidence that bots are being cleverly disguised as real people, with some 55,000 fake accounts using the names, profile pictures, and other personal details of real Twitter users.
On top of being duped into buying fake followers, those who have been exposed as customers of Devumi are facing some serious repercussions. The Chicago-Sun Times has suspended the publication of reviews by its film critic after it was revealed he bought at least 25,000 followers from Devumi.
More stringent laws are required to regulate social media companies, say lawmakers. Legislation was recently introduced in California that requires social media companies doing business in the state to link every account to a real person.
Will more states follow suit? If so— would it solve the problem, or just lead to more bots posing as human beings? We’ll have to wait and see as this story continues to develop.