New York's attorney general to investigate social marketing firm Devumi

Jan 30, 2018, 01:24
New York's attorney general to investigate social marketing firm Devumi

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that he has opened a probe into a company that has sold millions of counterfeit followers on social media, including to celebrities, politicians and journalists.

Photo Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of NY.

On Saturday, Schneiderman said impersonation and deception are illegal under NY law and that he is opening an investigation into Devumi and its "apparent sale of bots using stolen identities".

Yes, the major issue is that Devumi often uses names and pictures of actual people such asJessicaRychly, a 19-year-old Minnesota woman, whose online identity was stolen by a Twitter bot.

The Times said famous actors, television presenters and entrepreneurs were among those who bought Devumi followers.

Devumi did not respond to USA TODAY requests for comment.

"We found over 50,000 bot accounts from every state in the USA and from around the world that had taken the biographical details from real Twitter users", said Harris. While based in Florida, Devumi claims on its website to be based in New York City.

The firm also attracted customers in other parts of the world: an editor at Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, paid the firm for followers and retweets on Twitter, which the Chinese government blocked; and an adviser to Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno. "Plans start at just $19/month".

A recent research found that between nine and 15 percent of active Twitter accounts are autonomous entities known as social bots. Earlier this month, Twitter revealed that it had discovered more than 1,000 new accounts attributable to a Kremlin-connected troll farm, bringing the total number up to 3,814.

In his series of Saturday tweets, Schneiderman wrote, "The internet should be one of the greatest tools for democracy-but it's increasingly being turned into an opaque, pay-to-play playground".

"Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online", the report said.

Also on the list is Richard Roeper, the veteran columnist and film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, which said it will not publish any new pieces by Roeper until their investigation into his 226,000-follower Twitter account is complete.

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