The New York Attorney General’s office has reached a settlement which for the first time finds that selling phony social media engagement – fake likes, fake plays and fake comments – is fraudulent and prosecutable.
The case was brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James against Devumi LLC, which sold fake likes, plays and comments. Devumi’s constituent parts included Disrupt X and Social Bull.
James’ office says that the case makes it clear that fake social media engagement is illegal in New York. The settlement makes reference to Devumi’s activities generating fake plays and engagement on platforms including SoundCloud, Twitter and YouTube, and lists customers including actors, musicians, politicians, PR professionals and porn stars (fair company!)
“Bots and other fake accounts have been running rampant on social media platforms, often stealing real people’s identities to carry out fraud,” James said in a statement. “As people and companies like Devumi continue to make a quick buck by lying to honest Americans, my office will continue to find and stop anyone who sells online deception. With this settlement, we are sending a clear message that anyone profiting off of deception and impersonation is breaking the law and will be held accountable.”
Devumi’s German Calas, Jr. plead no contest to charges from the New York AG and reached a settlement agreement. After first being exposed in a New York Times report last year, Devumi’s companies ceased operations in October.