New York Times profiles a sleazy Twitter follower-farm, the sleazy serial liar who made millions on it, and the celebs, politicians, sports figures and "influencers" who paid him

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I sympathize with the purchasers. It’s a bit of an inflationary arms race I suppose, crossed with pro-sports juicing. If you’re pretty sure everyone else is doing it, you’re a fool to start out ten steps behind. In a business as mysterious, capricious and vapid as “celebrity” I’m sure the sheer anxiety will leave you grasping for aything concrete.


Justification for the whole sleazy process aside, I’d imagine that the “actual Twitter users” would not be sanguine about this.

“Devumi’s wholesale botmasters created followers of varying quality: orders would be filled with a mix of plausible-seeming followers cloned from actualy [sic] Twitter users, with recompressed profile images, and subtly altered usernames (lower-case l’s substituted for i’s, etc)…”


Finally, the Times raises the important question of how Twitter could have missed this

Dear NYT: it’s because their management are hapless fools who care more about MAUs than moderation and quality.


And I have 780,000 of my Twitter followers who agree with me.


Market forces at work.


I’m just going to put this here for reference; because this topic needs it; along with being killed with fire.


It would actually be quite interesting to know what Twitter HQ thinks about this. Obviously they are against embarrassing NYT stories; but bot farming in general must be a conflicted area for them: on the minus side, it offers an opportunity to give money to people who aren’t them in order to obtain prominent placement on Twitter; and if it gets too blatant it will presumably breed scepticism about the value of Twitter among potential buyers of placement, ads, VC rounds, etc. but on the plus side if they can cull the most egregious fakes the bot farmers are basically juicing their MAUs for them; a service they appear to be in dire need of.

If, hypothetically, they had a mechanism with perfect powers of discernment, rather than whatever heuristics they have slapped together; how much bot activity do we suspect they would permit? Shut them all down? Permit the ones that are putting enough effort in to retain plausible deniability when using those bots to boost their own numbers?


Wow, this is so late 19th century. Back then socialites and celebrities hired claques to applaud them at performances and galas. Some even printed their own newspapers or bought articles or editorials in others. All things old are new again.


Tell me again why Twitter is a good thing…


This article brought up so many issues. The whole ridiculousness/awfulness of social media, and the absurdity of the idea that it means something real: you have people being labeled “influencers” directly getting paid for the number of followers they (supposedly) have, you have actors getting jobs because of their (supposed) followers, writers getting contracts, etc., and you have this notion that you can learn about people by looking them up on social media (when odds are, their identity has been stolen and recycled multiple times, so you’re more likely to find a fake account than their actual one). Then there’s Twitter’s relaxed attitude about this - it undermines the very nature of social media, but they too rely on inflated counts, of those using Twitter.

Man, the hilarious sleaziness of the follower-farm and its CEO - a overblown fake resume, a business with a fake address; it’s just on the edge of being outright criminal, only being saved by the fact that it seems they rent the bot accounts from other people who engage in the outright identity theft. Though the business still presents itself as being approved by Twitter, when it overtly violates the TOS.

It’s not like Facebook is any better, either. The whole idea of using metrics from social media to gauge popularity is laughable.

The wonderful absurdity is that it’s not just ego-stroking, but people actually get paid to flog products based purely on how many Twitter followers they have (except they actually don’t). I was reading something a while back that indicated that actors were getting cast in movies because of their follower numbers. People are taking the money they receive because they have fake followers and use a fraction of that money to buy those followers. It makes perfect sense, except the bit where anyone would offer deals based on grossly unreliable social media follower numbers.

Yeah, exactly - this kind of thing rots out Twitter from the inside, but Twitter are, effectively, just as much beneficiaries of these services as the people who pay for them.


subtly altered usernames (lower-case l’s substituted for i’s, etc), and much larger piles of obviously fake followers whose names, bios and other identifying data were just jumbles of random characters or words.

So… teens?

I don’t even see what part of this is news. We’ve known about similar operations for years, no?

Can’t wait to sink my teeth into the delicious schadenfreude of all these vapid celebs and bullshit marketeers buying fake followers…

No Jacobin, NNNOOOOooooooo!


Jacobin has been somewhat problematic for a while now.

Individual writers are good, but the organisation is a bit meh.


The ONLY damn use I’ve found for Twitter is to use it to sign in to other sites. I don’t read or send twits.


In the words of Bob Monkhouse, “The secret of success in show business is sincerity…… Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made”.


I don’t like this mashup of: What if PKD wrote Gogol’s Dead Souls? Too unbelievable to be reality.


Really interesting read! It could have been written in a bit more accessible language but gives really interesting insights! Thanks for the link!

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