In Groundbreaking Settlements, Attorneys General Find Fake Social Media Engagement Illegal

The Office of the New York Attorney General (“NY AG”) and the Office of the Florida Attorney General (“Florida AG”) announced settlements with Devumi LLC and its offshoot companies (“Devumi”), which sold fake social media engagement, such as followers, likes and views, on various social media platforms. According to the NY AG, such social media engagement is fake in that “it purports to reflect the activity and authentic favor of actual people on the platform, when in fact the activity was not generated by actual people and/or does not reflect genuine interest.”

These settlements are the first in the United States to find that selling fake social media engagement constitutes illegal deception and that using stolen social media identities to engage in online activity is illegal. The NY AG emphasized that the New York settlement sends a “clear message that anyone profiting off of deception and impersonation is breaking the law and will be held accountable.”

Devumi grossed $15 million dollars from 2015 to 2017 by selling fake social media engagement through bots and “sock puppet” accounts. A sock puppet account is the account of one person who is pretending to be many others. In other words, it is multiple accounts controlled by the same user. Some of the fake accounts used real social media profiles without the profile owner’s consent or knowledge.

The company also sold endorsements from social media “influencers” without disclosing that the endorsements were paid for. An influencer is a social media user with a substantial following, who monetizes their online popularity by endorsing goods, services and events to their followers.

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