The War on Social Media: One Large Step Forward for State Agencies

Social Media has become an important and integral part of everyone’s daily lives. But as with any technology, there are positive and negative attributes to social media. Social Media has many positive attributes, such as the ability to connect with long-lost friends, or to connect with people of whom you recently met. But at the same time, social media has negative attributes; Specifically, negative attributes that might foster illegal activity.

Recently, the State of New York Attorney General Letitia James and the now-defunct social media company Devumi, LLC., “A Colorado-based company owned by German Calas that sold fake social media engagement and followers to clients”, announced a settlement of $50,000. The settlement marks the first instance in which a law enforcement agency has successfully taken action and obtained a holding determining that it is illegal to sell fake social media engagement.

Devumi, LLC., would ordinarily have been seen as a relatively small company – but the profits they gathered from their brief lifespan from 2015-2017 amounted to $15 million in revenue. The profits, coupled with the fact that the “New York Times” published a revealing article about the company, prompted Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to open a probe on the company’s day-to-day business transactions.

While social media is still largely the “Wild West” in terms of legal regulations, the State of New York has broadly defined its consumer laws, which granted the ability to begin the lawsuit. New York defines false advertising as, “Any advertising that is misleading in any significant way…which may consist of fooling customers about the product’s price or quality, or leaving out crucial information.”

While many of us may not see the settlement as monetarily significant, this still marks the beginning of a new era for law enforcement agencies to crack down on individuals illegally obtaining funds through fake social media engagement. AG Letitia James remarked, “With this settlement, we are sending a clear message that anyone profiting off of deception and impersonation is breaking the law and will be held accountable.”

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/legalentertainment/2019/01/31/social-media-followers-for-sale-illegal-says-new-york-ag/#46cddad36c2c

https://thehill.com/policy/technology/427846-new-york-ag-it-is-illegal-to-sell-fake-social-media-followers-likes

Cover Image:

https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/twitter-and-the-bots/

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