Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms have been under renewed pressure to eliminate fake news or false advertisements from users’ feeds. This is a monumental task. But these social media woes are also relevant to legal entities looking to advertise or network using social media — because some of them are creating fake profiles or posting disinformation in order to obtain new clients or sway them away from competing firms.
And really, that’s just a bad idea.
Social media can be a great tool for law firms to use in order to disseminate factual information, but we always advise against made up “facts.” Clients want the truth. If they find out they’ve been lied to, then you’ll lose their support for good. That’s why you should steer away from dishonest behavior, such as posting irrelevant or nonfactual articles, or hiring companies that say they can give you fake followers, subscribers, etc. (which some firms will buy because they think it will give the business more credibility if people notice that others are paying attention).
Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was at the forefront of an investigation into the latter practices, which are largely considered immoral and unlawful by government entities. Devumi, LLC had been accused of selling these fake followers to those who wished to boost social media performance. A case against Devumi was recently settled by the FTC.
The settlement prohibits Devumi from selling “social media influence” or misrepresenting that influence on behalf of anyone else in the future.
The reason why these practices are illegal is because they allow other individuals or companies facilitate acts of deception with regards to consumers. Devumi also allegedly “sold fake LinkedIn followers to marketing, advertising and public relations firms, among others, and fake YouTube subscribers to musicians who wanted to increase the popularity of their music.”
Devumi was one of a string of settlements decided by the FTC. These settlements should reduce the number of bots running rampant on social media platforms.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said, “Bots and other fake accounts have been running rampant on social media platforms, often stealing real people’s identities to carry out fraud. 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.”
A Twitter spokesperson tweeted: “The tactics used by Devumi on our platform and others as described by today’s NYT article violate our policies and are unacceptable to us. We are working to stop them and any companies like them.”