The New York Times broke a story this weekend about the number of businesses and celebrities that buy fake followers in order to seem more important and valued than they, in fact, are. Intermediaries steal the identities of real people and create fake online identities for them that are packaged and sold to entities willing to pay the price. The following infographic, containing information from Barracuda Labs, Social Bakers, Statuspeople, Andrea St. Poppa, and Carlo De Micheli, details one way that the fake follower business works:
The reputations of individuals whose identitities are stolen are compromised by associations with products they know nothing about. Individuals assessing the popularity of a celebrity or the efficacy of a product by follower count. Creditors are misled. Inflated digital ad rates based on follower count rip off advertisers.
I think that there is further damage done when individuals reading the comments of fake followers realize that they are being misled and become cynical and distrustful--of a medium like Twitter or Facebook that previously brought them feelings of connection and joy.
The NYT's investigation centered on one company that creates and sells fake follower bots: Devumi Social Media Marketing. Principals in the company deny the accusations.
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