A US court has ruled in the favour of videogame-streaming service Twitch against two bot-makers who sold a service to artificially inflate Twitch channels' number of viewers and fans.
Michael and Katherine Anjomi, who ran websites with names like ShopTwitch, TwitchShop, and TwitchStreams, have been ordered to pay Twitch US $55,000 in damages and a further $1.3 million for profits made through sales of their illegal bot.
According to reports, some Twitch streamers paid up to $760 per month to have their channels boosted by bots. Twitch broadcasters found to have a large number of consistent viewers and followers were granted entry into the site's Partner program, opening opportunities to make more income and gain greater visibility on the site.
With profits of $1.3 million coming to those behind the viewbots it's clear that there were plenty of Twitch channel owners prepared to pay to give their channel a (fake) boost, perhaps tempted by claims that the likes of TwitchShop offered "great customer support" and 24/7 live chat.
BBC News reports that the Anjomis attempted to evade bot-detection systems developed by Twitch:
Twitch highlighted that the Anjomis had marketed their bots as being "undetected", claiming in 2016 that none of their 6,000+ users had ever been suspended or banned for using them.
The social network said the bots had been programmed to use a different internet protocol (IP) address for each fake viewer to make them harder to spot.
Furthermore, it said, they posted fake chat messages on the relevant streams to fool checks Twitch carried out hunting for channels with a high number of viewers but low engagement.
Michael and Katherine Anjomi have been declared guilty of trademark infringement, breach of contract, unfair competition and violation of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
Twitch may have won on this particular occasion, but there are other viewbotters out there trying to game the system. And it's not just on Twitch where users and brands might be tempted to hire the assistance of bots to boost the visibility of their channels.