Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis has garnered countless fans over his career for his unbridled passion, gritty gridiron play and an unmatched zeal that’s not too common in virtually any walk of life.
Even his most ardent haters begrudgingly admit that he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But apparently, that popularity hasn’t had the easiest transition to the digital age.
Lewis was named as one of many professional athletes and media personalities linked to a shadowy company that boosts someone’s Twitter presence for a price, per a report from the New York Times.
Devumi, described by the Times as “a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud,” has been making untold sums of money by stealing social media identities, turning them into bots, and artificially inflating social media presences.
As an example, Jessica Rychly, 19, is a seemingly normal Minnesota teenager interviewed by the Times.
“Jessica Rychly,” who shares the same name, photos and age as the real Rychly, is a bot that promotes anything from foreign products and business to hardcore pornography sites.
By all accounts, Devumi seems to partake in a lesser version of identity theft.
The going rate is approximately $50 for 5,000 fake followers.
For someone making millions of dollars, such as Lewis, adding 50,000 fake followers on social media would cost them a negligible $500. That’s akin to a clerical error on Lewis’ taxes.
But the benefit of having 50,000 — or 5 million — extra followers is definitely not negligible.
Media personalities can use the fake accounts to convince prospective employers that their influence is broader than it actually is. After all, the bigger the audience, the more money there is to be made.
And the more followers a person has on social media, the more people are inclined to believe that person is important and influential.
Devumi’s founder, German Calas, denied that the company sells stolen social media identities.
“The allegations are false, and we do not have knowledge of any such activity,” Calas told the Times via e-mail.
It’s not just Lewis who seems to be caught in this web of fraudulent fandom. MLB player Brandon Phillips and ex-NFL receiver Joey Galloway are just some of the other names involved. Models, musicians, and both liberal and conservative politicians are all listed as Devumi customers by the Times.
In fairness to all those involved, it’s not always the celebrity who purchases the fake followers. In Lewis’ case, for instance, his personal assistant’s e-mail was provided on the Devumi order form.
But whether or not a person is directly culpable, fake followers is the equivalent of fake news. If Lewis or anyone involved wants to maintain integrity and honesty, they should purge their social media accounts of anyone whose identity has been unceremoniously lifted.
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