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William Saito denies NYT report on buying Twitter followers

William Saito
William Saito appeared at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2015 (Twitter)

TOKYO (TR) – A story published last month in the New York Times about how persons of prominence can purchase influence online included entrepreneur William Hiroyuki Saito as an example of someone who bought followers on Twitter. However, Saito, who late last year issued an apology for misrepresenting his background, denies the allegation.

The article reveals that television personalities, professional athletes, comedians and models have paid — either on their own or through affiliated parties — a fee to a company called Devumi to boost their presence on social media.

According to the Times, among the company’s 200,000 customers is Saito. The entrepreneur was not mentioned directly in the text of the article, but his Twitter account was listed in a graphic as a customer of Devumi under “Politics.”

The inclusion of Saito as a buyer contradicts a previous claim by the entrepreneur.

After writer Ichiro Yamamoto raised questions online regarding the background of Saito last month, the entrepreneur issued an apology via Twitter. In an entry on his personal site dated December 21, Saito admitted that his resume contained inaccuracies, including a false claim that he graduated from the UCLA School of Medicine.

One of the questions raised by Yamamoto was whether the large number of followers on Saito’s Twitter account, which numbered more than 700,000, were genuine. In answering the question, Saito wrote on his blog that he never purchased followers. “I have used promotional tweets because I felt that I wanted more people to read my tweets, but I never bought followers,” he wrote.

Saito’s Twitter account has since been deleted. When contacted by The Tokyo Reporter regarding the Times report, the entrepreneur said via email that his blog was “correct” in a denial of the report.

Twitter account of Willaim Saito appears in a graphic by the New York Times showing important persons in politics who have purchased followers
The Twitter account of Willaim Saito appears in a graphic by the New York Times showing important persons in politics who have purchased followers

Resigned from government posts

Known as an expert in cybersecurity, Saito founded founded I/O Software in California as a teenager in 1988. He later started the venture capital and technology consultancy InTecur after moving to Japan from the U.S. in 2005. Saito became a special adviser to the Government of Japan regarding cybersecurity in 2013.

Following the questions raised about his background, Saito resigned from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Cabinet Office in the middle of December. METI confirmed via an email to The Tokyo Reporter that Saito resigned due to “personal reasons.”

On the same day that he issued the apology, Japan Airlines Co. announced Saito’s resignation as executive officer, general manager of Digital Innovation Promotion Department.