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Friday, August 24, 2012

Fake Followers

As an earlier post noted, any measure of opinion that depends on "spontaneous" expressions is vulnerable to manipulation. What goes for "phone-in" polls goes for Twitter. At The Hill, Alicia Cohn reports:
Congress is followed by a lot of phonies: a new study shows a large percentage of accounts following legislators on Twitter are fake.
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.
The averages held true within a few percentage points when broken down by party.
Overall, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had the highest level of phonies following them. Polis’s followers are 82 percent fake, according to the study, a higher number than any other Democrat or Republican. Most others had a higher percentage of inactive accounts beefing up their follower numbers, but Tilton clarified that fake and inactive accounts tend to mean the same thing: there is no human being on the other side of that account. 
Mitt Romney’s campaign was forced to deny accusations of buying fake followers last month when his follower count spiked over one weekend. An independent firm later found the percentage of Romney’s followers who are fake wasn’t any higher than average, and it turns out, according to StatusPeople, that Obama’s account has more fake followers than Romney’s does.