Social media validation has become extremely important for people and having more followers than peers translates to the popularity of the person on various platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others.
While these social media platforms help celebrities reach a wider audience, some are willing to increase their follower count by any means. This practice is often frowned upon by users and brands, who are willing to associate with people based on their reach. After the discovery of a social media racket busted by Mumbai Police, it has come to light that many social media influencers and celebrities have gained followers by paying certain online portals.
Mumbai Police has set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the matter, but it has already identified 54 portals selling fake followers and has information about 100 portals involved in the unethical practice.
Cops nab one accused, more to go
The Crime Branch's Central Intelligence Unit arrested one accused involved in the massive social media racket who was selling fake followers and creating fake influencers. The accused ran his operation through a "Followers Kart" website and was responsible for creating 176 fake accounts of different personalities and provided 5 lakh fake followers on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook.
The accused, identified as 21-year-old Abhishek Dawade, is a resident of Kurla and a college dropout. He was working for an international Social Media Marketing racket and accepted payments for his services in US dollars. In last one year, he reportedly made $9,000, which roughly translates to Rs 9 lakh, just by selling fake followers to social media users. From many directors to choreographers, make-up artists and sports personalities have all bought fake followers from the accused, Mumbai Mirror reported.
What led to the bust?
Such digital marketing rackets often operate in the shadows and it's hard to identify their motives. However, when Bollywood playback singer Bhoomi Trivedi found someone had created her fake profile on Instagram and got many followers, she lodged a complaint with the Mumbai Police. The person used Bhoomi's social media handle to reach out other celebs with an offer to increase their followers. The SIT is now investigating other portals and trying to identify who bought these fake followers.
(If you have any information about this topic, or know someone who sells fake followers / buys them, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will be kept secret).