The FTC has fined Florida businessman German Calas, Jr. $2.5 million over the sale of "fake indicators of social media influence”.
Calas, who had been in charge of a company called Devumi, has been handed a significant fine in what could prove to be a benchmark case for online fake sellers.
Devumi was the subject of a major New York Times investigation last year, which found that the company had been selling likes and followers to a range of celebrities, online influencers or anyone else who wanted to appear more popular online.
The FTC says Devumi wasn’t limited to selling Twitter influence, however. In addition to its website Devumi.com, it also operated TwitterBoost.co, Buyview.co and Buyplans.co, and sold influence across Twitter, Vine, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and SoundCloud.
Its customer base included actors, athletes, musicians, writers and other social media celebs or high-profile individuals like motivational speakers, law firm partners, investment professionals and more.
All this allowed the customers to commit deceptive acts and practices, in violation of the FTC Act.
Although Devumi is gone, there are still plenty of places to buy followers and likes online, so it’s not clear how much of a deterrent the FTC action will be in the grand scheme of things.
Nevertheless, this could prompt fake like and engagement sellers to re-think their practices.