In a report released on Friday, it was revealed that most of President Obama’s 18.8 million Twitter followers are fake. Based on figures revealed in a New York Times article, more than 13 million of the President’s Twitter followers simply do not exist. Republican Candidate Mitt Romney is not faring much better. He only has 900,000 Twitter followers, but most of them are also fake.
The Times used a new web tool to arrive at their conclusions:
“If accurate, the number of fake followers out there is surprising. According to the StatusPeople tool, 71 percent of Lady Gaga’s nearly 29 million followers are “fake” or “inactive.” So are 70 percent of President Obama’s nearly 19 million followers.”
StatusPeople, a London based social media management company, created the specialized Web tool called the Fake Follower Check to verify the authenticity of Twitter Followers for their clients. Rob Waller, a founder of StatusPeople, gave a brief explanation of how the tool worked, saying, “Fake accounts tend to follow a lot of people but have few followers. We then combine that with a few other metrics to confirm the account is fake.”
The combination of national political campaigns that spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and the availability of millions of fake Twitter followers that can be purchased for as little as a penny each, creates a whole new set of problems for accountability in our elections. Hopefully tools like Fake Follower Check will begin to discourage politicians from turning elections into a highly manipulated popularity contest. Loading a website with fake followers is just another form of fraud, and while it may not be illegal, it certainly is unethical.
While neither campaign has disputed the numbers, they are adamant that they have not purchased any twitter followers. It will be fascinating to hear Obama staffers explain how 13 million Twitter followers just happen to be fake, if no one purchased them. Romney probably wont have time to comment on the issue. He will be too busy explaining his tasteless birther joke that he made earlier this afternoon.