In today’s day and age, a celebrity’s social media following is one of their most crucial assets.
Earlier, a celebrity’s popularity could be gauged by the moolah their films are able to collect at the box-office, but in the digital age, the number of followers is an indicator of a celeb’s stardom.
Consequently, a race to having a maximum number of followers has emerged in Tinseltown.
However, behind the glaring blue tick and the number of followers that run into thousands and even millions, one wonders as to how many of these followers are organic, or even real.
Last week, the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) Mumbai busted a racket run by Abhishek Dinesh Daude for creating fake profiles on social media.
The arrest has now led into a first-of-a-kind full-fledged investigation that has high-profile personalities, builders, sportspersons, and Bollywood celebrities among others in radar.
And according to the latest in the reports, actresses Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Deepika Padukone are also set to be summoned by the police to be questioned in the scam of fake followers that allegedly involves international companies.
The paid follower game
In addition to stardom, the number of followers helps celebrities make a whopping earning by influencer marketing. Hence, they end up buying fake followers to boost their income.
“A star’s handle is verified and usually even has many organic followers as well. But brands want to see more followers, which become a requirement for many, and the celebrity has to have a lot of followers. So, they tend to ask for more followers and get them. They don’t just recoup the investment from the brand, but also mint millions,” says a digital expert.
Many companies have approached even this writer, who has a verified account on Twitter if he needed more followers, which were to be paid for.
“There is no law against buying fake followers. But how is it used depends on cyber laws. Is it being used for misrepresentation and fraud? Is it used for activities like threatening women and abusing women and children? Are those accounts being used to intimidate and bully people? It is not only film stars and celebrities, but also politicians who use a lot of these accounts, used for intimidating and making fun of other politicians,” adds a source.
Hence, the police may also question close to eight Bollywood bigwigs named by Daude very soon.
While the police are presently mum on what names that list comprises, sources say that the Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh has constituted a Special Investigations Team (SIT) to look into the matter, and they are expected to call in the big stars and their agencies for questioning.
Mystery of the vanishing followers
With the said investigation bringing to light how known personalities might have fake followers, it may further solve the mystery of vanishing followers.
Often, many stars, including Amitabh Bachchan, have cribbed about how they have suddenly lost followers. There have been reported instances of how Bollywood stars such as Aamir Khan (over 3,16,900 followers), Priyanka Chopra (3,54,830 followers) and Deepika Padukone (2,88,298) have lost followers.
Even the indomitable Khans have lost followers. Shah Rukh Khan’s followers dropped by over 3,62,141, and Salman Khan lost 3,40,884 followers.
Well, the clue to all the ‘vanishing’ is fake accounts! Social media platforms regularly audit social media accounts of those who have not been using their handle regularly.
The social media companies try to identify email id or a mobile phone number to which the account is connected. If these pieces of information attached to an account are missing, the account is immediately suspended or deactivated (which results in the sudden ‘dip’ in the follower numbers for many celeb accounts).
However, not many celebrities realise that fake social media fanbase is a Frankenstein’s monster as well, which will devour them or their accounts one day.
The fake follower accounts made by the man currently being investigated were also allegedly being used to troll and abuse people on social media as well as for cyberbullying.
Many including Karan Johar, Sonakshi Sinha, Alia Bhatt and her sister Shaheen, Sonam Kapoor and her sister Rhea Kapoor, Rhea Chakraborty, Zaheer Iqbal, Aayush Sharma, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, and Ajay Devgn have been on the receiving end of the tirade.