Has Mitt Romney Been Attracting Fake Twitter Followers?
Fakery on the Internet is a big deal at the moment. Research earlier this year revealed that around half of the followers of several big brands on Twitter were in fact fake accounts (not that users can tell the difference!).
It's no better on Facebook, with a BBC study finding that many of the new likes resulting from Facebook advertising are in fact from fake accounts, a claim supported by e-retailer Limited Run, who claimed this week that 80% of clicks on their Facebook ad were in fact fake.
And of course the social news site Reddit hit the news earlier this year for banning several big brand publishers for inflating the number of votes on their content by fake means. This all goes by the name of crowdturfing, and it's a big industry, with estimates that it's worth several billion dollars a year already.
So you can imagine the surprise when Mitt Romney's Twitter account recently saw a surge in new followers, gaining around 140,000 new followers in just two days. Over the lifetime of his account he's been gaining somewhere between 2-5,000 new followers per day. So it's quite a leap from that to 70,000 per day.
It's inevitably prompted speculation that Romney is engaging in some crowdturfing of his own, buying up lots of fake accounts to make his account look like a hip and happening place to be.
Analysis of the new followers does indeed paint a highly suspect picture. For instance bot accounts are generally quite obviously bot accounts, and therefore don't attract many followers themselves. How many of these new followers of Romney fell into this boat? Well the median number of followers each of them had was just 5. I think you can read into that what you will.
Indeed, analysis found that around 25% of Romney's 150,000 new followers had less than 2 followers of their own. For accounts of a similar size one can expect that number to be more like 10%. Indeed, a whopping 63.7% had fewer than 10 followers.
Of course, tweeting your message to a bunch of bots is unlikely to help in an election, but if it makes him feel popular then I'm sure it was money well spent.