There is a dark corner of the Internet where, with enough money, you can buy fame, prestige and fortune. This shadow-filled digital alley is not what you think it is. It is not the deep morass that is 4Chan or any number of subreddits frequented by mustache-clad weirdoes. In fact, this black-market is used by billion dollar companies, prominent public figures and even presidential candidates.
Have you ever wondered how some people on Twitter have so many followers regardless of their lack of personality and interesting commentary? Or why companies like Coke have over half a million followers with tweets like this one:
It turns out that the market for buying and selling Twitter followers is much larger than any of us thought. Security vendor Barracuda Networks recently published a study detailing the alarming amount of falsified Twitter accounts on the micro-blogging site. The details of the report state that:
This is certainly not the first time Twitter’s account recognition algorithm has been brought to attention. Last year, digital languages professor Marco Camisani did a study, which showed that 46% of Twitter users following major corporations are automated or bots.
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was also brought into question in the Barracuda study for his recent increase in Twitter followers. The study reports “on July 21st, his [Romney] follower number went from 673,002 to 789,924 representing a gain of 116,922 or 17%.” No hard evidence exposing Romney’s alleged bought Twitter followers have surfaced yet, but a 17% increase in one day seems condemning enough.
With so many falsified accounts, it seems like Twitter is turning a blind eye towards these deals. In actuality, the people selling fake followers have developed specific methods to avoid detection by Twitter. Many sellers, according to the study, are following famous and non-famous people as well as posting random tweets to avoid being shut down. In addition, it seems that these sellers charge different amounts depending on the level of authenticity associated with their accounts.
With so many fake Twitter accounts out there you would think that NMR’s Executive Editor Alan Van would have more than 35 followers. Follow our real Twitter account @NewRockstars. I swear we’re not robots…. or maybe I was just programmed to say that. Error…system malfunction (explosion).