Police probe’s revelation had shaken the entertainment industry to its roots. The Mumbai Crime Branch has found a shocking lead while investigating social media marketing fraud. The police reportedly have 10 names of celebrities involved in the fraud and are going to question two leading actresses of Bollywood. The celebrities are accused of enhancing their social media performance by paying dollars for fake tweets, Facebook likes, comments, etc.
Mumbai Crime Branch’s Crime intelligence unit (CIU) started the investigation after Bollywood playback singer Bhoomi Trivedi complained of profile theft on July 11. The authorities have come across 10 names of the celebrities who have used the services of one such company.
The investigation had a big breakthrough after the study conducted by the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) in 2019.
The CIU had confirmed that 68 such companies are providing the services of fake followers, comments, likes, subscribers, share etc. The authorities further revealed that these celebrities pay up to $52 for one YouTube subscription and $42.12 for a comment on Twitter, while the cost of likes on Facebook stands low at $1.79, as per rate card at — www.amvsmm.com.
The most stupefying detail revealed by the CIU was that up to 48 per cent of the Instagram followers of the two female lead actors in Bollywood are fake or bots. “We are investigating an international racket and the study is part of the basis for the probe. Unfortunately, the article [study] is no longer published online, as it is out of date and, therefore, we’re unable to share it,” CIU authority told the Mid-day. On further digging, the police found two sources of these fake bots. These bots are created either manually or by certain illegal software.
Another such website, followerskart.in, whose name came forward while investigating Bhoomi’s complaint, is based out of France. The Investigation officer of CIU, Sachin Waje mentioned that he has written to the French government through the Ministry of External Affairs seeking the details of the company.
Earlier, the cops had arrested Abhishek Dwade, 22, for producing fake followers and selling it in US dollars. Investigation revealed that Dwade had created over 5 lakh fake followers for 176 profiles on Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
“The website has different rate cards for every country, and their rate changes as per the demand. The packages are available on their website and there are people who have bought lakhs of followers to have influence on the social media,” said an officer involved in the investigation.
The rate chart available on Followerskart.in showed the charges as follows: $2.54 per follower, $1.56 per like, $2.54 per comment on Instagram, and $9.36 for a LinkedIn follower. For YouTube, $52 per subscriber and $2.80 per like, and for Facebook, $1.79 for a single like, and $3.25 per Twitter follower, and $42.12 for a Twitter comment.
The police have been moving forward in the investigation and have arrested Kashif Mansoor, a civil engineer, from Jogeshwari on Wednesday. The accused runs AMVSMM, which provides the same services in Indian currency. The authorities said, “This company is based out of India and Mansoor has his own website to provide such services in Indian currency, most of the B-grade celebs and small companies seem to have used his services.”
AMVSMM rate card is as follows, one Instagram comment or follower, AMVSMM charges Rs 272 and Rs 120 for a single like. For a Facebook comment, the firm charges Rs 1,600. One YouTube view costs Rs 153, subscriber Rs 216 and share Rs 138. For Twitter, it takes Rs 1,904 per follower, Rs 75 per poll vote.
All these companies have been booked under Sections 43 (damage to computer, computer system, etc) and Section 66 (computer related offences) of the Information Technology Act; Section 420 (cheating), section 417 (punishment for cheating), section 465 (punishment for forgery), section 467 (forgery of valuable security, will, etc.), section 471 ( using as genuine a forged) and section 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.