WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is joining the investigation into fake followers on social media.
According to the New York Times, a number of businesses are selling millions of fake Twitter followers to celebrities and other people.
The paper says some of the followers are the stolen identities of real users, and others are people who do not exist at all.
“Most of the time the fake followers are what we would call bots,” said Dan Ackerman, editor at CNet. “They’re artificial people. They’re either created from a database of names and photos or they’re automatically copycatted from real accounts just with a slightly different name.”
One company that’s come under scrutiny is Devumi. It promises to, “accelerate your social growth”… “from trending tweets, to viral videos. We make it happen.”
“They have a bunch of packages listed,” Ackerman explained. “You can start with just 500 followers for just ten dollars, and they’ll get you those within a couple of days.”
The Times’ analysis found that Devumi draws from “…an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts…” and “at least 55,000 of the accounts use the names, profile pictures, hometowns, and other personal details of real twitter users, including minors…”
On Tuesday, two senators sent a letter to the federal trade commission asking them to investigate the “deceptive and unfair marketing practices” by Devumi and similar companies.
The New York State Attorney General’s Office has also opened its own investigation.
Devumi’s founder denies his company stole social identities or sold fake followers.
He told the New York Times, “the allegations are false, and we do not have knowledge of any such activity.”
Still, the Chicago Sun Times pulled reviews by film critic Richard Roeper after allegations he bought 25,000 Devumi Twitter followers. Roeper did not return our request for comment.
“If you are a person on social media or an influencer who buys a lot of these followers then you turn and sell your services to a brand or company who is important on social media the people you’re work for may feel they are paying for something they didn’t get, a popular person who is really followed by ghosts,” Ackerman said.
In a statement, Twitter told CBS This Morning Devumi’s alleged tactics “violate our policies and are unacceptable to us. We are working to stop them and any companies like them.”
Devumi did not return CBS’ request for comment.
It is interesting, when you log on to its site (as of Thursday afternoon) and try to purchase Twitter followers, the website says the service is unavailable.