US presidential candidate Mitt Romney managed to attract over 100,000 new Twitter followers in a single day but research has revealed that ten per cent have already been suspended.
According to research by Barracuda Networks Labs, on 21st July 2012, there was a 17 per cent increase in Romney's followers on that day from 673,002 to 789,924. Yet to date, ten per cent of these new accounts already have been suspended by Twitter. It also found that one in four of these new Twitter accounts had never sent a single tweet.
Jason Ding, research scientist at Barracuda Labs, said: “Based on the above distinguishable features, we believe most of these recent followers of Romney are not from a general Twitter population but most likely from a paid Twitter follower service.
“Also Romney's newest followers did have few different statistical features than our purchased followers (e.g. much newer than ours), indicating his followers were purchased from a different data resource than ours.”
Findings from Barracuda Labs' most recent study, The Underground Economy of Buying Twitter Followers: Dealers, Abusers and Fake Accounts, found that more than 80 per cent of all Romney's followers were less than three months old and 25 per cent of them were not even three weeks old.
The study analysed a random sampling of more than 70,000 fake Twitter accounts that are being used to sell fake Twitter followers. The study found that there are 20 sellers on eBay of fake Twitter profiles, and 58 websites out of the Google top 100 search results sell fake profiles. In terms of cost, the average price to buy fake followers is $18 per 1,000 followers.
The study identified that the average abuser has 48,885 followers. The average age of a fake Twitter account is 19 weeks, while the average fake Twitter account is following 1,799 accounts and threequarters of abusers have set a URL in their profiles.
Ding said: “It is important to note that authentication is not required when buying Twitter followers from eBay or other websites. It is possible for anyone to buy followers for other Twitter users. That being said, Romney's newest followers could have been paid for by himself, his associates or by his opponents. So far, there is not a feasible way to confirm who is responsible.
“Twitter keeps on detecting fake accounts and followings, and suspending them in last few years. However, if they do not move faster and smarter, these fake accounts will continue to be created, blended into the massive Twitter population, bringing bigger and bigger impact. This underground Twitter business is just blooming.”