Richard Roeper Returns to Work After Suspension for Buying Twitter Followers

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The film critic will continue to write reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times, but must delete his current Twitter account and start a new one.

The Chicago Sun-Times has reinstated critic Richard Roeper following a suspension earlier this week for buying followers on Twitter.

Roeper was one of several prominent journalists, sports stars, politicians and celebrities who had paid to increase their Twitter followers with fake accounts, according to a New York Times report published in January. Roeper's Twitter following currently numbers 200,000, but it was not specified by the Times report as to how many of those followers were fake.

The Sun-Times conducted an investigation into the issue this week and found that Roeper had purchased roughly 50,000 followers on six occasions between July 2014 and July 2016, spending around $650 of his own money; Roeper said he was unaware that any of the followers he purchased were fake; Roeper cooperated fully with the investigation by providing receipts of his purchases; the Sun-Times had no explicit policy in place that banned the purchase of Twitter followers.

According to the initial NY Times report, a company called Devumi was responsible for selling fake followers and is also linked to "a kind of large-scale social identity theft.” According to the Sun-Times' investigation, three of Roeper's purchases were from Devumi, though he claimed he "was unaware that any of these followers were fake or had had their identities compromised." Roeper said the companies he purchased from offered “legitimate” followers.

As a result of the investigation, Roeper will continue to write movie and television reviews, as well as entertainment stories, but will not write general interest news columns; he must open a new Twitter account, delete his current account and refrain from purchasing followers in the future on any social media platform. The Sun-Times also announced that it will be implementing a new policy barring its journalists from purchasing followers on any social media site.

Roeper said in a statement, "I want to express my thanks to the many colleagues and friends — and readers and listeners and viewers — that have reached out to me over the last few days to express support. Your trust is something I have worked hard to earn over the course of my career. Moving forward, I will do everything I can to keep that trust."

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