Nearly half of President Joe Biden’s Twitter followers are fake accounts, according to a report.
An audit of Biden’s official @POTUS Twitter account found that 49.3% of the Twitter users who follow the account are “fake followers,” Newsweek initially reported Tuesday. To conduct the audit, Newsweek used a follower audit tool, called “Fake Followers,” created by data analytics firm SparkToro.
According to the Fake Followers tool, which is available to use for free online, the @POTUS Twitter account has about 10.9 million “fake followers” out of 22.2 million total, which make up 49.3% of the account’s followers. That number is relatively high for an account of that size. The median percentage of “fake followers” for an account of similar size is 41%, putting the @POTUS account on the high end of the spectrum. The low end of the spectrum for an account of similar size is about 25% “fake followers.”
The tool defines “fake followers” as “accounts that are unreachable and will not see the account’s tweets (either because they’re spam, bots, propaganda, etc. or because they’re no longer active on Twitter).” To conduct the audit itself, the tool samples 2,000 random users picked from the 100,000 users who followed the audited account most recently. The tool then analyzes the followers, using more than 25 factors that correlate with “spam/bot/low quality accounts.” SparkToro notes that while none of these indicators alone point to a fake account, when multiple indicators are present, there is “strong correlation with low quality.”
According to the tool, 81% of the audited sample consisted of followers who had created accounts in the last 90 days; 93% had profile URLs that were not correct; 91% had a “suspiciously small number of followers”; 88% “follow an unusually small number of accounts”; 24% had a default profile picture; 45% had display names with spam-correlated signals; and 72% had spam-correlated signals in their biographies.
Biden’s personal account has a somewhat lower percentage of “fake followers,” according to the report. The audit tool found that the @JoeBiden account had 43% “fake followers,” equal to about 14.7 million followers out of about 34 million total. Biden’s account was much more toward the median percentage than @POTUS. Still, some 55% of sampled followers had not been active for more than 120 days; 60% had a “suspiciously small number of followers”; 47% followed “an unusually small number of accounts”; and 87% had suspicious profile URLs.
SparkToro also conducted a large-scale audit of Twitter. In a blog post Sunday, SparkToro reported the results of a joint audit with another firm called Followerwonk, of more than 44,000 accounts active in the last 90 days. The audit found that 19.42% of active accounts were likely to be fake. Also in its report, SparkToro estimated that 22.35% of accounts were fake, using data aggregated from the more than 500,000 accounts audited using the tool over 3.5 years. That percentage was four times more than Twitter’s Q4 2021 estimate of the percentage of spam accounts on the platform.
SparkToro’s figure was likely cited by billionaire Elon Musk when he threw his agreement to buy the platform into question Tuesday. “20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher,” Musk tweeted. “My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”