Weiser announces judgment against seller of fake social media activity
Sept. 19, 2019 (DENVER, Colo.)— Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced a settlement with Devumi, LLC, a company that created fake social media likes and followers to make its customers appear more popular and influential than they were. Devumi, German Calas, and Belle Charanek, along with the related company, Bytion, Inc., agreed to a consent judgment that includes $50,000 in fines and permanently prohibits them from selling likes, followers, endorsements, or other indicators of social media influence.
The defendants claimed to give their customers a “competitive edge” by increasing interactions with their social media profiles. This included fake Twitter followers, views of YouTube videos, and endorsements on LinkedIn. While the defendants claimed they would generate “real” social media engagement, they instead used bots and other methods to create phony social media accounts that they deployed to “follow,” “like,” and endorse Devumi’s customers on social media.
“This case is a line in the sand. The fraudulent activity on social media violated Colorado’s consumer protection laws, and we will not hesitate to prosecute any company that generates fake social media activity,” said Weiser. “Furthermore, companies should not – and will not – be allowed to use fake social media activity to enhance their brand deceptively and unfairly to achieve a leg up over their competitors. In an era of increased use of social media for commerce, it is important that we not allow deceptive marketing tactics to trick consumers.”
Calas and Charanek operated Devumi from New York and Florida for several years before moving to Colorado in early 2018. A few months after Devumi began operating in Colorado, media reports exposed their conduct, causing the company to go out of business. Their customers included law firms, marketing companies, financial services companies, recording studios, and musical artists in Colorado and nationwide.
One method of creating fake social media accounts involves creating a nearly exact copy of a real one. The Defendants stole the profile picture, demographic details, and other information from real accounts and used them to create fake accounts which appear identical to the real account. This technique can create embarrassment and reputational harm for the consumers whose social media identities are coopted.
The Attorney General’s office built the case in part through subpoenas to the social media platforms Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, who cooperated with the investigation and confirmed the fraudulent activity on their platforms.
Lawrence Pacheco, Director of Communications
(720) 508-6553 office | (720) 245-4689 cell