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Are Most of Newt Gingrich's Over 1.3 Million Twitter Followers Fake?

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More than double the follower's of Sarah Palin?

If having the most Twitter followers could seal the deal on a person's presidential candidacy, Newt Gingrich would reign supreme. With a staggering 1,325,842 followers to date, Gingrich has more than double the followers of Sarah Palin and has also left Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann's -- both of whom boast less than 100,000 followers each -- in the dust.  But given the former House Speaker's lack of real-time appeal, what's with Gingrich's Twitter popularity? According to Gawker, the answer is fake Twitter followers, allegedly fabricated by a Gingrich-hired firm to make the once presidential hopeful look good:

Gawker reports that on Sunday Gingrich complained about the press ignoring his Twitter-success, stating, "I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined, but it didn't count because if it counted I'd still be a candidate; since I can't be a candidate that can't count."

But Gingrich's Twitter following might not be made up of actual people. A former Gingrich staff member reportedly told Gawker the campaign hired an outside firm to beef up the candidate's Twitter following, in part by fabricating user-accounts en masse:

Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them. As you might guess, Newt is most decidedly one of the people to which these agencies cater.

About 80 percent of those accounts are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various "follow agencies," another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves (Newt's profile just happens to be a part of these networks because he uses them, although he doesn't follow back), and the remaining 10 percent may, in fact, be real, sentient people who happen to like Newt Gingrich. If you simply scroll through his list of followers you'll see that most of them have odd usernames and no profile photos, which has to do with the fact that they were mass generated. Pathetic, isn't it?

But as Gawker points out, this is a far different explanation for Gingrich's Twitter explosion than the one offered by Politico back in mid-July:

"[I]t's his personal touch: He tweets and manages his Twitter feed himself, his campaign confirmed to POLITICO. All told, he has tweeted 2,611 times in the 29 months since he joined the site."

According to Gawker, a rudimentary search of Gingrich's Twitter followers yields several dubious-looking results, such as accounts featuring strange names with no followers, posts or personal information.  There is also reportedly a market out there in cyberspace for purchasing Twitter followers..

Gawker reports that the Gingrich campaign didn't respond to its request for comment.

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