Sunday, January 28, 2018

NYTimes article slams the practice of buying social media followers; is there a way this can work legitimately? ("The Follower Factory"); Also, Mommy blogs today

The next time you see a huge number of Twitter (or YouTube, Instagram, and other) followers on someone, be skeptical.
That’s the message of a long piece by Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J/ X. Dance, Richard Harris and Mark Hanse. “The Follower Factory” (almost an online book), with the byline “Everyone wants to be popular online; Some even pay for it; Inside the social media black market”.  So people are paying for the privilege of appearing to influence.  
The article names an obscure company Devumi.  If you go to the page, there is no shame in what it sells.

But the NY Times article indicates that many of the followers, besides fictitious characters or groups constructed by bots,  are made up copies of real people.  This would mean that sometimes they are unverified accounts when the real people (if genuine celebrities or experts in their fields) have Twitter checks (although those are getting more difficult these days; Jan, 8 post).

The article also notes writers (at least one) being forced to buy followers to keep their jobs. 
I get “followers” wanting to sell me more followers all the time.  I don’t respond, and they usually unfollow in a few days. I have never bought followers.

This reminds me of the debate over paid book reviews (Books blog, Dec. 22, 2017).

I’ve had one case of a fake Facebook profile created of me, with no posts.  It was caught by a friend and removed before I knew about it. It sounds credible that a conniving plot to use another person’s identity online could destroy their reputation, lead to firings, and in extreme cases, framing for crimes (even maybe child porn). A foreign enemy might try this sort of ruse, and I don’t think we’ve imagined what could happen.  (That’s not quite the same as the fake news bot attack of the Russians during the election.)  I’m not aware of any fake Twitter profiles.

The Twitter Purge on Dec. 18 might have eliminated many of these.

The NYTimes story has many series of smartphone illustrations showing how all this works.

A quick check on YouTube shows testimonials of people having business success buying followers.  But it is hard for me to understand how this can be legitimate or, at least, sustainable. This NYTimes story needs more examination, to be sure.

Here’s another controversial story in the Washington Post by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “How the Mom Internet became a spotless, sponsored void”   Yes, the article goes back to Heather Armstrong’s “Dooce”   Again, there is a problem with bloggers driven by the demands of advertisers and an unsustainable operation.  I was different because I did not need for mine to be “profitable” on its own, but that can pose its own inverse ethical problems.  

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