Paying for fake Twitter followers has been revealed to be a rampant practice among actors, sports stars, and even a board member of Twitter itself.
The social media chicanery was uncovered in a detailed New York Times report on Saturday, which delved deeply into West Palm Beach, Florida-based influence peddler Devumi.
Using court records and a careful analysis of account activity, the report tied a number of celebrities to the services of Devumi, which sells fake Twitter followers to boost a person’s appearance of influence and importance.
Among those customers was businesswoman and British peer Martha Lane Fox. At least seven Devumi purchases made using her email address, according to the report, with the largest purchase of 25,000 followers coming just days after she became a Twitter board member in April 2016.
Lane Fox apologized on Twitter, saying a former staffer was to blame: ‘I’m going to write a blog soon but wanted to say that an ex employee made a mistake so therefore I made a mistake. Im v sorry + I would never recommend these purchases – they undermine the platform + the user and are a terrible way of targeting content.’
Baroness Martha Lane Fox is seen in June. The Twitter board member has apologized after being caught with a legion of fake Twitter followers
Spot The Fake: The account shown on the left is real, while the account on the right was identified in the Times report as a Devumi bot. The high following count is the giveaway. Nearly 55,000 fake accounts appeared to use the stolen identities of real people, including minors
Over just a few years, Devumi sold about 200 million Twitter followers to at least 39,000 customers, raking in more than $6million in revenue, the Times found.
‘Everyone does it,’ said The Wire star Deirdre Lovejoy, a Devumi customer, in a candid admission to the newspaper.
‘Everyone does it,’ said The Wire star Deirdre Lovejoy, a Devumi customer
The report found fake followers to be rampant among actors and other celebrities – particularly among B-listers always on the hunt for their next job.
For less than $4,000, actor Ryan Hurst, a star of the television series ‘Sons of Anarchy’, bought a total of 750,000 followers in the past two years, about three-quarters of his current count. Hurst did not respond to requests for comment.
Kathy Ireland, the former swimsuit model, has hundreds of thousands of fake Devumi followers, the report said. Her spokeswoman said that an employee had purchased them without Ireland’s authorization and had been suspended.
Sonja Morgan, a cast member on ‘The Real Housewives of New York City,’ and former ‘American Idol’ contestant, Clay Aiken, both used the service to boost their follower count, the report said. Neither responded to requests for comment.
Former ‘American Idol’ contestant Clay Aiken used the service to boost his follower count, the report said. He didn’t respond to requests for comment
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis (left) and Colorado Avalanche player Erik Johnson (right) were named in the report as having fake Devumi followers
Kathy Ireland, the former swimsuit model, has hundreds of thousands of fake Devumi followers, the report said. Her spokeswoman said that an employee had purchased them without Ireland’s authorization and had been suspended
Over the course of two years, liberal CNN contributor Hilary Rosen bought more than a half-million fake followers from Devumi, explaining to the Times that it was ‘an experiment I did several years ago to see how it worked.’
Conservative media figures were caught as well, with the report claiming that Breitbart News’ Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein bought at least 35,000 followers from Devumi.
Clive Standen, star of the show ‘Taken,’ was busted with phony followers as well. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The actor John Leguizamo has Devumi followers, and declined to comment.
Louise Linton, the wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, bought followers when she was trying to make it as an actress, the report said.
Ray Lewis, the football commentator and former Ravens linebacker, was also caught with bogus followers supplied by Devumi. His assistant denied making the purchase, although her email was listed on an order for 250,000 followers.
Liberal CNN contributor Hilary Rosen (left) bought more than a half-million fake followers from Devumi. Louise Linton (right) the wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, bought followers when she was trying to make it as an actress
Actor John Leguizamo has Devumi followers, and declined to comment
For less than $4,000, actor Ryan Hurst (left), a star of the television series ‘Sons of Anarchy’, bought a total of 750,000 followers. Clive Standen (right), star of the show ‘Taken,’ was busted with phony followers as well
Disturbingly, at least 55,000 of the fake accounts seemed to rip off the identity of real people, copying the photos, names and bios of other Twitter users.
The fake accounts can often be identified by the massive number of follows an account had relative to its followers, and by a propensity to re-tweet a bizarre range of posts in numerous languages.
Devumi’s founder, 27-year-old German Calas, denied everything
Devumi itself seems has a bogus quality, listing a tony address on Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue on its website. The company’s true headquarters is a small office suite above a Mexican restaurant in West Palm Beach, the Times found.
Devumi’s founder, German Calas, denied everything.
Though little is known about 27-year-old Calas, his online resume claims he received a PhD in computer science from MIT in 2002, when he would have been about 12 years old.
The school has no record of his attendance.
‘The allegations are false, and we do not have knowledge of any such activity,’ Mr. Calas told the Times in an email exchange in November, when asked about selling fake followers with stolen identities.