File image: (Bloomberg).

CAPE TOWN - According to New York’s chief prosecutor, the state is opening an investigation into a firm that allegedly sold millions of fake followers to social media users.

The company under investigation is social media marketing company, Devumi. The marketing company is accused of snatching people’s identities. This comes after the New York Times on Saturday published a report on Devumi which includes interviews from people who allege their account details and profile pictures had been copied to create realistic “bots”. 

It is alleged that actors, entrepreneurs and even political commentators could increase their follower count by paying for the “bots”. It is reported that a high follower account on social media can bring about advantages such as sponsorship deals and job offers. 

The social media company, sells followers on a range of other platforms. These include Pinterest, LinkedIn, Soundcloud and YouTube. Although the company is registered at a New York City address, the New York Times allege that it is a front, with its actual offices based in Florida and employing workers in the Philippines.

Twitter has since responded, saying that it is working to stop Devumi and similar companies. 


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Some well-known Twitter accounts allegedly have followers from the Devumi “factory”.  

Meanwhile, Facebook announced its plans this month to prioritise more trustworthy news sources on Facebook. According to Zuckerberg, this change was made in a bid to shun “misinformation” and “polarisation”. 

“Today I'm sharing our second major update this year: to make sure the news you see, while less overall, is high quality. I've asked our product teams to make sure we prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local. And we're starting next week with trusted sources”, said Zuckerberg. 

The group said that they would ask the social network community to discern which news outlets are reliable, as this would be more objective. 

This will be done by means of user surveys. While news content would soon comprise of approximately 4% of what appears in people’s News Feeds instead of 5%, the new update will not change the amount of news you see on Facebook, said the group. 

The move is the latest effort by the group to overcome the dissemination of so called fake news. “My hope is that this update about trusted news and last week's update about meaningful interactions will help make time on Facebook time well spent: where we're strengthening our relationships, engaging in active conversations rather than passive consumption, and, when we read news, making sure it's from high quality and trusted sources”, said Zuckerberg’s post.

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