amous people on social media—actors, models, athletes, influencers—like to brag about the size of their follower count. But a New York Times investigation published Saturday found that a number of those celebrities buy at least a portion of their social media followers. The report named dozens of individuals who it found had either bought part of their audience or had someone near them do so, with or without their knowledge or consent.
At the center of the investigation was Devumi, a company that allegedly sells what the Times calls “amplification bots,” which follow the accounts of paying customers and are programmed to like and retweet their missives. The company also claims it can help its customers get more views on YouTube videos, more listens on SoundCloud and more endorsements on LinkedIn.
“We only use promotion techniques that are Twitter approved so your account is never at risk of getting suspended or penalized,” the Times quotes Devumi’s website as saying. “Our followers look like any other followers and are always delivered naturally. The only way anyone will know is if you tell them.”
The Times found that reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models are among Devumi’s more than 200,000 customers.