Last week, Gov. Mitt Romney was called out for amassing 100,000 fake followers on Twitter in one weekend. Now, a more recent report is providing more exact numbers on both candidates' accounts of what could be fake tweeps.
An analytical tool, for example, found out of President Barack Obama's nearly 19 million followers, as many as 13 million could be fake.
The New York Times reports analysis supposedly revealing "fake" or "inactive" Twitter accounts comes from the tool Fake Follower Check, which was created by the firm StatusPeople. The Times states that if accurate, the tool shows 70 percent of Obama's Twitter followers are fake. As for Romney, Mashable points out that although he only has 900,000 followers, 135,000 of them are fakes.
This isn't limited to presidential candidates either. Celebrities have fake followers, and The Hill notes that many members of Congress had such followers as well:
Jon Tilton, the general manager for digital marketing firm Advocacy Media, ran a follower check last weekend on every member of Congress using StatusPeople, a tool designed specifically to check for fake followers on Twitter. He found that an average of 38 percent of accounts following representatives on Twitter and 42 percent of those following senators are a combination of fake and inactive accounts.
Although fake followers will not make or break a campaign and constituents might not care about this revelation either, Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University, told the Associated Press what they will care about is fraud.
"They do care if you're lying about who supports you," Schiller said. "Why risk your credibility as a politician by engaging in that?"
Why indeed. The Times reports having a massive number of Twitter followers to one's handle is a sign of popularity:
“There’s a tremendous cachet associated with having a large number,” said [comedian Dan] Nainan, 31, adding later, “When people see that you have that many followers, they’re like: ‘Oh, my goodness, this guy is popular. I might want to book him.’ ”
It may be the worst-kept secret in the Twittersphere. That friend who brags about having 1,000, even 100,000 Twitter followers may not have earned them through hard work and social networking; he may have simply bought them on the black market.
It's easy and inexpensive to purchase followers on Twitter. Websites advertise 10,000 Twitter followers for as little as $52. Twitter prohibits the use of such services, as does Facebook, which also prohibits providing false personal information and creating more than one personal account. But a fake name and an email address are enough to get around those prohibitions. Facebook estimates nearly 4 percent of its 950 million users are not actual people. Similar statistics for Twitter are unavailable because it is privately held.
Both Romney and Obama's camps have denied paying for followers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.