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The Follower Factory – @NYTimes by @nickconfessore @gabrieldance @Rich_Harris @cocteau

The Follower Factory @ The New York Times “Everyone wants to be popular online. Some even pay for it. Inside social media’s black market.” by Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.x. Dance, Richard Harris and Mark Hansen – At least a dozen times a month someone emails Adafruit trying to sell coverage, or followers, or both –

Kathy Ireland, the onetime swimsuit model who today presides over a half-billion-dollar licensing empire, has hundreds of thousands of fake Devumi followers…

Ms. Ireland has over a million followers on Twitter, which she often uses to promote companies with whom she has endorsement deals. The Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance, for example, said that the former model was one of its most influential Twitter “brand ambassadors,” celebrities who are paid to help promote products.

But in January last year, Ms. Ireland had only about 160,000 followers. The next month, an employee at the branding agency she owns, Sterling/Winters, spent about $2,000 for 300,000 more followers, according to Devumi records. The employee later made more purchases, he acknowledged in an interview. Much of Ms. Ireland’s Twitter following appears to consist of bots, a Times analysis found.

A spokeswoman said that the employee had acted without Ms. Ireland’s authorization and had been suspended after The Times asked about the purchases. “I’m sure he thought he was fulfilling his duties, but it’s not something he should have done,” said the spokeswoman, Rona Menashe.

Kathy Ireland, currently as of 1/29/2018 has 1.13m followers on Twitter. This isn’t the first instance of mystery and intrigue, at least not for us. Here is the story of our first encounter with the Kathy Ireland media empire In July of 2015 when we posted about people claiming to represent Kathy Ireland. Later on, Rob Lowe.


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