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Half of Biden’s 22M Twitter followers are fake, audit finds

President Joe Biden. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
May 18, 2022

Almost half of President Joe Biden’s Twitter followers are fake, according to a new audit revealed this week.

Conducted by the software firm SparkToro, the audit found that 49.3 percent of Biden’s 22.2 million Twitter followers are “fake followers,” Newsweek first reported Tuesday. SparkToro considered multiple factors associated with fake accounts in its analysis, including location problems, default profile pictures and new users.

The firm defines “fake followers” as “bots, spam accounts, inactive users, propaganda, or other non-engaged/non-real users,” according to its website.

“If you rely on follower count as a measure of potential influence and reach, you could be vastly overestimating an account,” SparkToro’s website added.

Last week, billionaire Elon Musk announced he had temporarily placed his highly anticipated $44 billion deal to buy Twitter on hold until he can get verify the true number of spam and bot accounts on the social media platform.

“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk tweeted.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal subsequently addressed the issue of spam in a Twitter thread.

“We suspend over half a million spam accounts every day, usually before any of you even see them on Twitter. We also lock millions of accounts each week that we suspect may be spam – if they can’t pass human verification challenges (captchas, phone verification, etc),” he tweeted.

“The hard challenge is that many accounts which look fake superficially – are actually real people,” he continued. “And some of the spam accounts which are actually the most dangerous – and cause the most harm to our users – can look totally legitimate on the surface.”

Agrawal claimed that his team updates Twitter’s systems and rules “constantly” to “remove as much spam as possible” without impacting real users, noting that “none of us want to solve a captcha every time we use Twitter.”

“Now, we know we aren’t perfect at catching spam. And so this is why, after all the spam removal I talked about above, we know some still slips through,” he said in a separate tweet. “We measure this internally. And every quarter, we have estimated that <5% of reported mDAU for the quarter are spam accounts.”

Musk has said he wants to do away with fake or spam Twitter accounts when his purchase of the company goes through. Musk also said he would favor reinstating former President Donald Trump on the platform after he was permanently banned in 2021.

“Permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for accounts that are bots, or scam, spam accounts,” Musk added.