Kristin Binns, a Twitter spokeswoman, said the company did not typically suspend users suspected of buying bots, in part because it is difficult for the business to know who is responsible for any given purchase. Twitter would not say whether a sample of fake accounts provided by The Times — each based on a real user — violated the company’s policies against impersonation.
“We continue to fight hard to tackle any malicious automation on our platform as well as false or spam accounts,” Ms. Binns said.
Unlike some social media companies, Twitter does not require accounts to be associated with a real person. It also permits more automated access to its platform than other companies, making it easier to set up and control large numbers of accounts.
Accounts belong to customers of an obscure American company named Devumi that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud. Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers, a New York Times investigation found.
Fake accounts, deployed by governments, criminals and entrepreneurs, now infest social media networks. By some calculations, as many as 48 million of Twitter’s reported active users — nearly 15 percent — are automated accounts designed to simulate real people, though the company claims that number is far lower.
In November, Facebook disclosed to investors that it had at least twice as many fake users as it previously estimated, indicating that up to 60 million automated accounts may roam the world’s largest social media platform. These fake accounts, known as bots, can help sway advertising audiences and reshape political debates. They can defraud businesses and ruin reputations. Yet their creation and sale fall into a legal gray zone.
The Times reviewed business and court records showing that Devumi has more than 200,000 customers, including reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models. In most cases, the records show, they purchased their own followers. In others, their employees, agents, public relations companies, family members or friends did the buying. For just pennies each — sometimes even less — Devumi offers Twitter followers, views on YouTube, plays on SoundCloud, the music-hosting site, and endorsements on LinkedIn, the professional-networking site.
“Social media is a virtual world that is filled with half bots, half real people,” said Rami Essaid, the founder of Distil Networks, a cybersecurity company that specializes in eradicating bot networks. “You can’t take any tweet at face value. And not everything is what it seems.”
On sites like Social Envy and DIYLikes.com, it takes little more than a credit-card number to buy a huge following on almost any social media platform. Most of these sites offer what they describe as “active” or “organic” followers, never quite stating whether real people are behind them. Once purchased, the followers can be a powerful tool.
I have known for a long time that a person could purchase followers for a business on “fake book”.
Not only do people do this to promote themselves business do this to drive more people to buy their product.
A business following, likes or tweets etc, can be TOTALLY FAKE!
I have never relied on likes or tweets etc to guide me to a business.
Today we not only have FAKE news but FAKE social media that promotes FAKE people and FAKE business.
If you rely on the virtual world of facebook, twitter and FAKE news outlets, msnbc, cnn, pbs and others to guide your thinking you are and have been DECEIVED!
Whats that song? Its a small world after all.
Its a FAKE media world after all, its a FAKE media world after all, its a FAKE media world after all, its a FAKE, FAKE world……
President Trump has to deal not only with FAKE news media but FAKE social media and its paid followers.