The New York Attorney General’s Office says it has reached a first-of-its-kind settlement with a company that sold fake social media engagement in an effort to deceive consumers.
The settlement prohibits Devumi LLC and a handful of related companies from selling fake followers, likes and views on social media platforms,and fabricating activity from false accounts.
Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement that the settlement is the first in the US to make it illegal to sell fake social media engagement and to use stolen identities to engage in online activity.
“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. “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 created fake accounts, including so-called sock puppets in which one person creates multiple on-line accounts to express fake positive opinions of a product or service. The company also sold endorsements from social media influencers without disclosing that the influencers had been paid for their recommendations.
The AG’s office said Devumi’s practices “deceived and attempted to affect the decision-making of social media audiences,” including some the company’s own customers who mistakenly believed they were paying for authentic endorsements.
Devumi also deceived social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube, which have policies prohibiting fake activity.