DJ Snake via Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

Even the most popular musicians can be tempted into buying fake Twitter followers.

On Saturday, the New York Times published an extensive report examining the company Devumi, which not only steals digital identities (which is bad, dishonest, and dangerous), but also sells fake followers to musicians like DJ Snake, the French producer behind the hit “Turn Down For What,” Clay Aiken, the former American Idol star, and Lucas Hoge, up-and-coming country singer. Whenever you look at your favorite artists’ Twitter page, impressed by just how many people follow them, it might be worth questioning if those numbers are real—and if any human ever actually hit that “follow” button.

So why do would anyone buy fake followers? It’s an easy way to give brands and fans the appearance of a huge social reach and popularity. Instead of growing a following, you could buy one, instantly.

Electronic producer 3Lau told the Times he received 50,000 fake Twitter followers from an old manager who purchased them for his account. 3Lau might be paying for them now: Before the report, on January 26, his Twitter follower count was at nearly 223,000. On Tuesday, January 30, the number was closer to 216,000. It’s unclear why or how he’s loss 7,000 followers in the span of four days, but there have been reports of Twitter purging bot accounts over those exact dates, directly following the NY Times story—it doesn’t seem outlandish to believe this is a symptom of those fake followers.

Screenshot via the Internet Wayback Machine from 1/6/2018

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Screenshot of 3Lau’s Twitter account taken 1/30/2018

Purchasing fake followers to boost numbers shouldn’t matter, but in certain industries—music especially—a large social following is a sign of success, and inspires more people to pay attention to the artist with those huge numbers. In the music business, Devumi could feasibly be used to help artists buy SoundCloud plays and YouTube views, giving the appearance of actual engagement and growing status. When asked via email, a representative from SoundCloud told me any such usage would violate their Terms of Use.

Any way you slice it, buying fake followers is straight-up fraudulent and misleading to fans. If an artist has 50,000 followers, and buys 20,000 more, they’re illustrating to the world that 20,000 additional people care about this act when they, well, just don’t exist. Simply put: An artist inflating their follower count is the same as lying to the community that actually, truly and honestly, supports them.

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You, as a fan, shouldn’t expect for your favorite act to deceive you. Hopefully artists will stop engaging in this behavior. It’s not too much to ask for.