Leaders of a Senate Commerce Subcommittee are asking federal regulators to probe the market for fake Twitter followers in the wake of a New York Times report.
Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote the Federal Trade Commission earlier this week, lobbying Acting Chair Maureen Ohlhausen to investigate Devumi, a US company that “allegedly uses bots to create fake social media accounts.”
“This company seems engaged in unfair or deceptive practices, and we urge you to use all the tools at your disposal to take immediate action to investigate this company, along with any other similar services, and shut down any fraudulent practices they are engaged in,” Moran and Blumenthal wrote.
On Saturday, The Times published an article on Devumi practices, claiming the company uses the photos and profiles of real people to create fake Twitter accounts.
Those bots are then allegedly employed to follow clients who pay Devumi to boost their social media profile. Clients include journalists, athletes, politicians and musicians from around the world.
In their letter to the FTC, Moran and Blumenthal said the company could be perpetrating “a unique kind of social identity theft.”
They also claimed that fake followers and retweets: “have the effect of distorting the online marketplace, and creating a false sense of celebrity, credibility, or importance in people, companies, or institutions that may not deserve it.”
If the agency takes action, it wouldn’t be the first time the FTC has attempted to referee social media practices. Last year, the Commission sent letters to 90 “influencers and marketers,” warning them to make requisite financial disclosures when posting about products they endorse.
“A material connection could be a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of a free product,” the agency noted.