Following reports last weekend in the US media and in The Times, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) condemned the dishonest and deliberately misleading practice of buying social media support. According to the reports celebrities including Paul Hollywood, Baroness Lane-Fox and James Cracknell have purchased ‘followers’ in order to boost their social media presence and fake their perceived popularity.
According to the reports, Devumi – the company who were selling the followers – also appear to have engaged in widespread identity theft to create thousands of fake social media profiles and build the false impression of global popularity for its celebrity clients.
Kevin Taylor FCIPR, Chair of the Professional Practices Committee said: “Astroturfing – the practice of buying ‘fake grass roots support’ – aims to overstate the popularity of a person or a campaign. It is a dishonest trick played on the public. Any organisation or individual deliberately misleading people to think they have more supporters or followers in any context is acting unethically and against the public interest. It is a clear breach of our professional code of conduct.
This story is a timely reminder that ethically-practiced professional PR is a safeguard for the public, as well as for clients and employers, against this sort of unscrupulous and illegal behaviour.”