Visit Peak District & Derbyshire has issued a statement after being featured on Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans.
In the programme, aired on Monday, August 5, it was revealed that some agencies – including one used by the tourism board – are unnaturally growing their clients’ social media presence and buying fake ‘likes’ for their pages.
David James, chief executive of Visit Peak District & Derbyshire said that it had sub-contracted the Sheffield-based company SM4B “in good faith”.
He added: “As a matter of course, we undertook a reasonable due diligence exercise as far as our resources allowed, and did not find anything to suggest that the company was engaging in unlawful or inappropriate practices.
“We commissioned SM4B in early 2013 to promote an online competition on a trial basis on our behalf. The results were unsatisfactory, raising only ten per cent of the Facebook entries we received, and as a result the brief contact between ourselves and the company was terminated.
“As soon as we were presented with evidence that alleged SM4B was breaching legislation and operating in a fraudulent and dishonest manner, we
formally severed all ties with the company and sent written confirmation to this effect.
“Visit Peak District & Derbyshire’s policy is to grow its social media activity ethically and legally, and we would never knowingly use dishonest and unlawful means to boost the popularity and reach of our online campaigns.
“We welcome the programme makers’ confirmation that ‘there is no suggestion that Visit Peak District has behaved improperly in any way’, and
would like to reassure the media, the public, all our stakeholders, commercial partners and members that we will make every possible effort to ensure that such an apparently serious breach of the ethical and legal standards we expect from our sub-contractors does not happen again.”
A spokesman for SM4B said: “SM4B have never knowingly purchased fake Facebook “profiles” or “likes” to promote any Brand’s Facebook page. We very much regret comments made that could be seen to promote misleading interaction or popularity of a Brand. This was not our intention and it is not a practice SM4B utilise or condone.”