Fake followers, fake likes: they’ve flooded social media in the past few years.
While companies have taken action against fraud accounts, in New York, selling bots and fraudulent social media activity now could land you in hot water. In fact, it’s against the law.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday it had settled with U.S. company Devumi, which had been under investigation following a New York Times exposé which revealed its shady social media practices.
The settlement makes selling fake likes and followers illegal in the state of New York. It’s one of the first actions taken by a law enforcement agency against the practice.
“As people and companies like Devumi continue to make a quick buck by lying to honest Americans, my office will continue to find and stop anyone who sells online deception,” James said in a statement online.
“With this settlement, we are sending a clear message that anyone profiting off of deception and impersonation is breaking the law and will be held accountable.”
Devumi, which folded last August, was employed by a number of high-profile celebrities to help build their online following. Some clients knew the business used fake activity to boost online profiles, while others thought the increased engagement came from genuine people.
The investigation found in some instances Devumi scraped the accounts of real people without their consent to build fake profiles.
Of course, the fake follower business was a lucrative one: CNN notes that Devumi earned approximately $15 million in revenue, but the negative publicity following the Times‘ revelation led to the decline of its business, and eventually its closure.