Photo by Karsten Knoefler, Creative Commons
By Wendy Gittleson / 05.31.2017
To Donald Trump, his popularity is everything, which may be why his favorite mode of communication is Twitter. Twitter’s model of having people follow other Twitter accounts, rather than having a mutual “friendship” gives celebrities and notables opportunities to collect thousands or even millions of followers.
Trump’s personal account has about 31 million followers, which is nothing to sneeze at. Then again Katy Perry has nearly 100 million and Barack Obama nearly 90 million. You have to know that drives Trump absolutely crazy.
Trump has been doing some housecleaning recently by blocking some of his more contentious followers (I know several who were blocked just last week). Still, his Twitter following dramatically increased on Tuesday, and there’s something very weird about many of those followers. They don’t have pictures and they’ve never tweeted.
Trump’s Twitter acc has suddenly gained 3 mil followers and has been blocking lots of people. New followers look like this… pic.twitter.com/uzYkeNsjUC
John Niven (@NivenJ1) May 30, 2017
John Niven wasn’t cherry picking. If you click on Trump’s recent followers, more of them have no pictures and no tweets than those who are active Twitter users. They’re an oddly international (given Trump’s nationalism) group of followers as well.
These followers are likely bots. They aren’t people at all. According to Twitter Audit, only 51 percent of Trump’s followers are real. Nearly half are fake, and that’s not just the new ones.
The number of fake accounts has gotten a lot worse since Trump took office.
This isn’t the first time someone has pointed out that a good portion of Trump’s Twitter following is fake, but what’s interesting is that its fakeness seems to be increasing. In January, journalist Yashar Ali ran an audit on Trump’s Twitter account and found that 68 percent of his then-20 million followers were real. Now he’s at 30 million followers, but only 51 percent are real, which means of 10 million followers Trump has gained since January, about 8.3 million are fake. Compare that to Barack Obama. 79 percent are real.
In April 2016, when Trump was beginning to gain traction as a serious candidate to at least win the Republican presidential nomination, the former reality TV star had a mere 7.58 million followers, only 8 percent of which were fake, according to FiveThirtyEight. It’s not surprising that as Trump’s global profile has skyrocketed in the past 13 months, so too have the number of bots attached to his Twitter accountâbut it’s astonishing how much the percentage of his followers that are fake has risen.
While fake followers are a pretty serious problem on Facebook, and not one that the user can always control, it is easy to buy Twitter followers and it’s a big problem.
Automated adding to lists or collections: You may not add Twitter users to lists or add Tweets to collections in a bulk or indiscriminate manner. Adding a large number of unrelated users to lists is a violation of the Twitter Rules.
If Trump did pay for the followers (and perhaps even if he didn’t), he’s violating Twitter’s rules and his account should be banned.