The FTC is cracking down on the practice of selling fake social media influence indicators such as likes, followers, and fake reviews.
If you’re buying fake engagement, likes, or fake reviews, you should be concerned. Apart from the practices being frowned upon across the industry, the FTC has set them in its sights as well. This should, of course, also cause sellers to be concerned that the FTC will come after them. Last week, news broke of a company in Florida being fined $2.5 million over its sale of “fake indicators of social media influence.”
Florida businessman German Calas, Jr. was fined $2.5 million, and a warning was issued to Sunday Riley, who apparently wrote fake reviews for her own products the website of beauty products company Sephora. Both these cases are only the beginning of what could have a serious impact on the industry.
Devumi – German Calas, Jr.’s company – was investigated last year by the New York Times, which then reported, “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.”
Devumi’s fine will be suspended, after it pays $250,000, having agreed on a settlement with the New York Attorney General’s office, earlier this year.
Facebook also recently announced legal action against companies that have been carrying out similar practices. Of course, the FTC’s decisions have has no effect outside the US, but Facebook has shown a willingness to pursue cases in places like China.
In the case of fake reviews, it’s clear that they are fraudulent and mislead consumers. It’s great to see that something is being done about these practices, even if it’s done in baby steps.