Fake likes, ghost followers and bots reveal the murky underbelly of famous social media accounts being probed by Indian police.
It’s emerged that several PR agencies provide “fake” social media followers to Bollywood celebrities or other “big people”, and such followers are used for trolling and data theft, India’s Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had said in a video message.
Last month, Mumbai Police found as many as 200 high-profile people, including some Bollywood celebrities, movie directors, sports personalities and social media influencers who allegedly paid money to get fake or ghost followers.
Reports say Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone are among top Bollywood personalities who bought a large number of fake followers to increase their popularity to enjoy their influence on social media.
The Crime intelligence unit (CIU) of Mumbai Crime Branch began the investigation when Bollywood playback singer Bhoomi Trivedi filed an account theft complaint.
Trivedi discovered a fake profile created in her name. The fake profile chatted with other ‘high profile’ individuals showing screenshots of ‘simulated’ chats between herself and the company boosting social media accounts.
It was an attempt to new accounts on board to charge them for an increase in followers like they ‘supposedly’ done so for Trivedi. Many have been duped into the scam.
The fake social media likes and posts racket, assists influential people by buying a large number of fake followers to flaunt their popularity and star status. This is a business model to facilitate followers after charging money to promote a product or to speak in favour of any person.
Probing the case of Bhoomi Trivedi, the CIU arrested Abhishek Dawade who used to work for a company named Followers Kart. This company provided more than 700 services in 80 different categories. These services were linked to many social media platforms including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, LinkedIn, Spotify, and Sound Cloud.
The company provides fake Likes, Comments, Views, Retweets, Subscribers, and Followers to its customers on these social media platforms and in return, fees were collected in dollars. The company’s network was spread almost all over the world. Apart from India, it was mainly working in Russia, America, Britain, France Italy, and Israel.
The investigation has also revealed that this company used to tamper with servers related to social media platforms to facilitate a surge in the number of likes, comments, and followers. The police unearthed the company’s links to France, and has written a letter to the French government to seek help in the investigation.
The police also arrested Kasif Mansoor, a civil engineer by profession, who used to operate a website and his company used to provide fake followers.
The CIU investigation also involves a report prepared by The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) in 2019.
The ICMP named 10 Bollywood celebrities including Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone who allegedly purchased fake followers. The report claimed that 48 percent of followers of these two actresses are fake or Internet Bots.
The Mumbai Police is currently probing over 60 companies accused of selling fake followers. So far, it has questioned as many as 21 people, and in the coming days, it will interrogate the rest of the celebrities who are accused of buying fake followers.
Rapper Badshah was also summoned by the Mumbai Police to record his statement in connection with the fake social media scam and his Instagram account that goes by @badboyshah.