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A famous media personality was suspended for buying fake Twitter followers

Film critic Richard Roeper was suspended by the Chicago Sun-Times after being listed in a report, accused of buying fake Twitter followers. Roeper currently has around 224,000 followers on Twitter. (Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)

The New York Times shook up the media world over the weekend with a report about celebrities who buy followers on Twitter.

On Tuesday, that report led to film critic Richard Roeper’s suspension at the Chicago Sun-Times.

What happened?

Roeper, who currently has around 224,000 followers on Twitter, was listed in the report, accused of buying fake Twitter followers.

The Chicago Tribune reported a significant fluctuation in Roeper’s follower count over the last year.

On Monday, he had 226,000 followers. A year ago, he had 253,000. And in September, he suddenly lost 20,000 followers and the quickly gained 25,000 more.

On Monday, Sun-Times editor Chris Fusco released a statement to the Tribune:

“We’re investigating these issues. We will not be publishing any reviews or columns by Rich until this investigation is complete.”

Bad timing

The Sun-Times had just announced that Roeper would begin writing a news column in addition to his movie reviews.

Roeper rose to national fame working for eight years with the late  Roger Ebert, a  former Sun-Times film critic, on “At the Movies."

Why do people buy followers?

The main reason people buy followers is for the image of importance. Twitter users have a tendency to give more credence to users who have high follower counts.

“You see a higher follower count, or a higher retweet count, and you assume this person is important, or this tweet was well received,” said Rand Fishkin, founder of tech company Moz, according to the New York Times. “As a result, you might be more likely to amplify it, to share it or to follow that person.”

In addition, the social media website is more likely to suggest a user to others if that user has more followers.

Are they real people?

No, they are usually bot accounts that are made to look like the accounts of real people, using their pictures and names but with some slight details changed, like an out-of-place uppercase letter or underscore.

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