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Fake-follower bots are cheating everyone

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: 

Screenshot 2018-01-30 20.06.11.pngScreenshot 2018-01-30 20.06.44.png

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. 



Follow up

  • What does it mean to marketing and to business communication if followers are integrally important to growing businesses, but no one can trust that the followers are real? Some might see this situation as an opportunity. What are your thoughts?
  • Study the infographic (go to the link, where the sections can be enlarged). Where might regulation intervene? What are the plusses and minuses of regulation at any point in the process? What aspects are illegal?