Devumi fakes their Glassdoor ratings as well as bogus Twitter bots

1 year ago by Jeremy Bloom in News

Twitter bots - fake users that are bought and paid for to both increase a Twitter user's importance and amplify their message - are a huge problem. One company, Bytion, and its corporate subsidiary Devumi, seems to be at the heart of it, as detailed in this week's New York Times exposé. We thought it would be interesting to see what we have about Bytion in our data, and - surprise! It reveals even more fakery.

First, a word about bots, and Twitter: There's a lot of pressure out there to perform. If you're a celebrity, you're judged by your number of fans, which can be reflected in Twitter followers. If you're a journalist, that doubles, because the more followers you have, the more they'll retweet your story, which makes Twitter share it with even more people, and your readership goes up. If you're a PR person for a company or a CEO, it's your JOB to increase the follower count and the number of retweets and likes. You can actually be fired for failing to increase those numbers. This creates a need - for Twitter followers and retweeters. And where there is a need, some enterprising entrereneur will figure out a way to make money by filling it.

Bytion/Devumi, and its CEO, a 20-something named German Calas, did that by selling (really, leasing out) millions of fake Twitter users in giant packages to celebs, journos and CEOs. The NY Times exposed them, and the fallout has been harsh.

  • Celebrity baker Paul Hollywood deleted his account after being approached by the Times about his fake followers.
  • Film critic Richard Roeper has been suspended by the Chicago Sun Times, "Pending a review of his social media following".
  • Twitter board member Martha Lane Fox says her 46,000 fake followers were paid for by a "rogue employee".

It's fakes all the way down

One of the things we track at Thinknum is Glassdoor reviews - which can be a fairly candid look at the way insiders feel about a company's overall work environment, the quality of their CEO, and their long-term business prospects. Not only that, but by tracking the data trail, we can give a series of snapshots over time: Are insiders more, or less positive today than they were last year? Is the CEO's rating on the rise, or slipping?

But that doesn't work if someone games the system. Which it sure looks like Bytion did.

There are two ways you can game Glassdoor, and we spotted both.

One is to keep an eye on Glassdoor, and whenever one of the people you've pissed off submits a negative review, you get someone (generally a company employee under duress, or a friend) to submit a glowing review immediately afterward to counterbalance it. There are several instances of that, most recently over the past week. Bytion simply doesn't get that many reviews (27 in total over two years), so the fact that we have this cluster of three withint a week of each other seems odd:

On January 20, a disgruntled contractor posted a 1-star review under the headline "Micro Managed Work Experience." It was a multi-paragraph extended screed that shone a spotlight on a disfunctional office, disgruntled employees, and a discombobulated boss. It ended with the line "Grow up. You won't make it by running scam websites like purchasing social media followers."

On January 22, a 5-star review was posted, by a self-described contractor: "I'm Glad to have Found This Company", singing the praises of working (remotely) for Bytion. 

On Januarry 26, another glowing review went up, "Great Company". 

The other technique is to just totally stack the deck. If your numbers are slipping, get a whole PLATOON of good reviews, possibly by going into the office and saying "Okay, everybody, I need you all to go on Glassdoor RIGHT NOW and write me a glowing review."

Bytion has 27 reviews, in total. A full thirteen of those, or just under half, were written between May 5 and May 15 of last year. 

Here's a few snippets from those glowing write-ups:

"Family" "My second family" "Bytion: Not just a company but HOME" "At home with Bytion" "I am so blessed to be part of Bytion family."

Are you detecting a theme? How about these?

"I am lucky to work at Bytion" "I'm one lucky woman!" "A great privilege" "I thank God for Giving me this opportunity" "I'm lucky to work here!" "What did I do to deserve this kind of job?"  "Imagine the luck of having Bytion as my first job!" 

The company's current Glassdoor rating, including those 13 ringers:

Bytion Glassdoor rating

Without them? A dismal 2.6 stars - and that's including the first group discussed, the suspicious follow-ons.

Frankly, considering the level of cheating involved, we'd be inclined to doubt ANY of Bytion's positive reviews.

(Bot army image from iStock photo)

Jeremy Bloom

When Jeremy Bloom isn't writing about energy, the environment, or the amazing strangeness of modern life, you can find him drinking really good single malt whisky...

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