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Twitter bots follow Greitens by the thousands, mostly avoid other lawmakers


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Twitter bots, or fake followers, have been catching media attention recently. And it appears that Gov. Eric Greitens’ official Twitter account has the most fake followers out of the statewide elected officials and legislative leadership.

TwitterAudit, a website that audits Twitter accounts, gives Greitens a score of 67 percent, which means the 33 percent of their Twitter followers are from “fake” accounts. With Greitens, that translates into almost 25,000 fake followers.

In contrast, Missouri legislative leaders scored 96 percent or higher. Indicating that very few of their followers are considered fake. Of Rep. Todd Richardson’s 4,823 followers, TwitterAudit counts 73 as fake. Sen. Ron Richard has 38 fake followers of 1,814.

Most statewide elected officials have 96 percent or higher real followers — except Josh Hawley. The Attorney General of Missouri was given a score of 82 percent, with 1,228 fake followers and 5,749 real followers.

The website looks at an account and rates each of that accounts followers based on number of tweets, date of the last tweet and ratio of followers to friends. Based on that rating TwitterAudit determines whether any given user is real or fake.

“Of course, this scoring method is not perfect,” TwitterAudit states on their webpage, “but it is a good way to tell if someone with lots of followers is likely to have increased their follower count by inorganic, fraudulent, or dishonest means.”

TwitterAudit was founded in 2012, and isn’t the only website that can be used to discover how many real vs. fake followers a person has. These tools were developed as social media grew and expanded.

Social media has far outgrown just being another platform to communicate with friends and family. Now it is a marketing platform, a way for politicians and companies to get their message out into the populous. To this effect, the number of followers a person has has become more important, leading some to purchase followers.

The New York Times published a story on Saturday about a company, Devumi, that has sold more than 200 million fake followers.

The investigation found that it seemed the bots where using information, pictures and biographies from real users. The Times team purchased tens of thousands of fake followers, some from Devumi (25,000 at a cost of $225), to analyze.

A story published on The Times Insider stated, “‘On an account-by-account basis, it can be very difficult to tell if something’s a bot,’ Mr. Dance said. ‘Some things are just weird. There are weird people.’ On the aggregate, however, certain tellingly inorganic patterns become apparent.”

It is in violation go Twitter’s rules to buy followers, retweets or likes.

Read The Times article here