New York settles with company selling fake social media followers

German Calas, Jr. will pay $50,000 to the state to cover the cost of the investigation.

The state of New York's Attorney General has settled a case with a company that made millions of dollars selling likes, comments and followers on social media, according to CNN. The activity of the now-defunct Devumi was discovered as part of a probe carried out by New York's Attorney General's office. The owner of the company, German Calas, Jr., will pay a pretty insignificant penalty of $50,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.

The office of New York's top attorney found that Calas—through Devumi and a number of other companies including DisruptX, Social Bull, and Bytion—was selling tons of fake content on social media. He completed more than 250,000 sales of social media activity in bundles, charging as much as $3,997 for 500,000 Twitter followers, $29 for 100 YouTube subscribers. The companies offered these services across platforms including Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, SoundCloud and Pinterest. According to the settlement, Devumi's clients included movie and TV stars, musicians, politicians, athletes, models and porn stars among others. Devumi generated about $15 million in revenue between 2015 and 2017.

The AG's settlement may be small in terms of monetary punishments, but it marks the first time a law enforcement agency has marked the activity of creating fake social media activity as illegal. The Attorney General's office said the business of Devumi constituted illegal deception and impersonation, opening the doors for further action against similar services. The state did not take a position on whether customers purchases the services were similarly breaking the law.