Usually when we think of identity theft, we think of stolen credit cards, social security numbers, and fake bank accounts. However, in this new age of social media, a stolen identity can also show up online in places like Twitter.
Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, has opened an investigation into allegations made by the New York Times that there are Florida-based companies that are selling fake Twitter accounts and followers based on the identities of actual people. These fake followers have been sold to a range of high-profile Twitter users from celebrities to successful businessmen. The Attorney General’s office has announced that it wants to talk to anyone who had an identity stolen and used to create a fake social media profile on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, or any other social media platform.
The NYT Investigation
Through the investigation conducted by the New York Times, it was discovered that two companies originally incorporated in Palm Beach, Devumi and Bytion, have been involved in the sale of fake Twitter accounts. Twitter prohibits the purchase and sale of fake followers and creation of fake accounts.
According to business and court records obtained by the NYT, more than 200,000 customers have used the services provided by Devumi. This includes celebrities as well as local businessmen, such as Florida advertising executive Jordan Zimmerman. These followers were either bought by the high-profile Twitter users themselves, or by someone on their staff.
Since the Report
After the report from the Times surfaced, more than one million followers have disappeared from prominent accounts across Twitter. This has also prompted strict scrutiny from federal and state officials who want to crack down on the use and sale of fake accounts online.
Twitter says it will take action, but has declined to say how far that action will go, and if they will eliminate these fake accounts.
Federal and State Involvement
Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection and data security, have asked the Federal Trade Commission to begin an investigation into the “deceptive and unfair marketing practices” of Devumi and others. They have argued that this issue is one of social identity theft, and needs to be taken seriously.
Additionally, states have begun to look at the issue and consider their own laws against impersonation and commercial deception.
There is still a lot of uncertainty in this case, but the fact remains that stealing someone’s identify is a form of fraud, whether that is in real life through the illegal use of someone else’s accounts, or though impersonating them on Twitter. If you have been accused of identity theft, it’s a good idea to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help you work through the details of your charges and your criminal case.
Florida opens investigation into fake Twitter accounts. (2018, February 02). Retrieved February 20, 2018, from http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/Florida-opens-investigation-into-fake-Twitter-accounts_165067001