The New York Times ran an article last week detailing how the fake follower tool calculates that President Obama and Lady Gaga have a high proportion of fake followers. Since then there have been a glut of derivative articles sharing the same narrative (it’s not entirely true by the way). Given the circumstance, it’s understandable that Twitter would be defensive about the perceived lack of control over all of their fake accounts. But truth told, purchased followers are so widely available that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to deny that they exist. And purchased followers don’t disappear, so claiming that there is a misinterpreted group of users with bot-like, introverted tendencies is a bit silly.
Twitter also claims that they measure “frequency of logins” as a gauge for authenticity. This doesn’t seem to hold muster, either. A large number of fake accounts are generated and managed completely independent of the Twitter application. Because we don’t see a decrease in followers for accounts that have likely bought followers (politicians for instance), it’s not likely that login frequency is a reliable indicator of anything. If it were, Twitter would have weeded out bots better than they have.
Twitter’s shy-pothesis doesn’t really add up.
Twitter’s greatest hits
Add “fake followers are just shy” to Twitter’s greatest hits. Right next to Dick Costolo’s “truckful of money,” Costolo’s “What you’ll see us do more and more as a platform is allow third parties to build into Twitter.” and Michael Sippey’s “we want to make sure that the Twitter experience is straightforward and easy to understand.”
It’s tough to have a lot of faith in what Twitter says when they’re so often prone to exaggeration. How refreshing would it be to have someone from Twitter admit: “we’re for sale, we’re cutting off all third party apps and we can’t reliably weed out spam?” It would be refreshing, but maybe not assuring.
Faith in Twitter?
Adrian Covert wrote a phenomenal piece in Gizmodo this week entitled “Twitter needs to fix its own apps before it kills everyone else’s.” It’s a spot-on analysis of the sad state of Twitter’s current tools to manage its own platform (it’s also far too generous to the mobile app).
The irony in Twitter’s posturing is that they have had some brilliant third-party developers contribute to make Twitter a much more useful platform than it would have otherwise been. Would Twitter have summarily dismissed a tool like StatusPeople’s faker app two years? I doubt it.