A New York Times investigation exposing dozens of celebrities, athletes and media personalities for purchasing followers on social media revealed Breitbart Jerusalem’s chief editor Aaron Klein bought at least 35,000 followers on Twitter, and that the majority of his followers on the platform are bots.
In the expansive article published Monday, the Times described how self-identified social media marketing company Devumi sold thousands of followers to its customers on Twitter at about a penny a piece, shining a light on the murkey business of public personas spending money to boost their popularity and influence online.
Klein, with approximately 146 thousand followers on Twitter, largely posts his own articles on alt-right bastion Breitbart or promotes his radio show Aaron Klein Investigative Radio broadcasted on conservative talk stations. The Times investigation showed that Klein purchased thousands of followers from Devumi on multiple occasions from 2011 to 2015, followers that showed clear signs of not being real people.
Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter does not require users to approve their humanity when opening an account. By some calculations, as written in the Times, as many as 48 million, or 15%, of Twitter’s reported active users are automated accounts posing as real people. The company claims this number is far lower. Devumi denied that the company sold fake followers.
Some exposed celebrities and other public figures have claimed not to know or suspect the thousands of followers they purchased were fraudulent, and others have said they made the purchases out of pressure to appear more powerful in their respective fields. Klein has not responded to the report.