More than 70% of Elon Musk’s Twitter followers are fake, according to an analysis

  • 70% of Elon Musk’s Twitter followers are likely to be fake or spam accounts, according to two research groups.
  • Their analysis flagged users based on 17 warning signs pointing to suspicious accounts.
  • This comes as Musk questions Twitter’s estimates that less than 5% of its accounts are fake.

More than 70% of billionaire Elon Musk’s 93 million followers on Twitter are likely to be fake accounts or spam, according to a joint audit by two research groups published on Sunday.

The two groups, SparkToro and Followerwonk, said their definitions of “fake” and “spam” accounts might not be the same as Twitter’s.

They said they used a system of 17 warning signs, based on an algorithm that was run through 35,000 fake Twitter accounts bought by SparkToro and 50,000 accounts that the teams flagged as not spam.

If one of Musk’s followers was flagged for multiple spam signals, they rated it as low-quality or fake, they said.

Fake accounts by the numbers

Analyzing all of Musk’s nearly 100 million followers, they found that 73% have spam-related keywords in their profiles and 71% use locations that don’t match any known place names.

And 41% of these accounts use display names that match spam patterns, they said. Notably, 69% have also been inactive for more than 120 days, the groups added.

The research groups also noted that 83% of Musk’s followers had a “suspiciously small number of followers” and 78% follow an “unusually small number of accounts.”

SparkToro’s Rand Fishkin told Insider that what defines “small number” depends on the algorithm.

“For example, an account that is older or tweets more may have a higher threshold, compared to a newer account that tweets less and has a lower one,” he wrote in an email.

Other metrics the teams used included the age of the Twitter account, how many tweets were made over an extended period of time, and whether it uses Twitter’s default profile picture.

As such, SparkToro said it defines fake accounts as “those that do not have a human being personally writing the content of their tweets, consuming the activity on their timeline, or participating in the Twitter ecosystem.”

On the other hand, Twitter defines monetizable daily active users as “individuals, organizations, or other accounts that logged in or authenticated and accessed Twitter on a given day” through its paid products or platforms that display ads, according to the SEC. of the company. filing for the first quarter of 2022.

The company has not publicly disclosed its full method for classifying fake or spam accounts.

SparkToro wrote in its analysis that some of the “fake accounts” by its definition aren’t necessarily problematic, such as bots aggregating front-page news or tweeting photos and links to restaurants around the world.

But he said most of the spam accounts he flagged are guilty of peddling propaganda and misinformation, pressing


identity fraud

attempts or


malware

manipulating stocks and cryptocurrencies, and trying to harass other users.

He also noted that his analysis might be underestimating active users who don’t tweet anything other than browsing their timelines, and that it may not be flagging some sophisticated spam accounts either.

Still, the research groups said their analysis is based on a “conservative” estimate of what constitutes a fake or spam account.

The debate over Musk’s Twitter bot

The assessment comes as Musk said Friday that he will pause his $44 billion purchase of Twitter until he proves the accuracy of his claim that fewer than 5% of its users are fake.

His announcement sparked a heated exchange online between him and Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s CEO, in which the latter defended Twitter’s numbers, tweeting that suspend half a million spam accounts a day.

Musk responded with a poop emoji and questioned how advertisers with Twitter would know what they are getting for their money. An analyst firm said Musk’s apparent hesitation to buy the platform could be a ploy to negotiate a lower price or back out of the deal.

But Twitter said on Tuesday that it is sticking to Musk’s originally agreed price of $54.20 a share.

The CEO and founder of Tesla recently acknowledged that the numbers on his own Twitter account may be inflated.

Speaking Monday at a tech conference in Miami, he noted that one of the most liked tweets on the platform (his own tweet about buying Coca-Cola) has 4.8 million likes compared to Twitter’s estimate of 217 million total active users.

Musk said his concern is whether Twitter’s count is “an order of magnitude” wrong.

“Something doesn’t fit here, and my concern here is not whether it’s 5%, 7%, or 8%, it’s potentially 80% or 90% bots.” he said.

SparkToro and Followerwonk estimates indicate that around 19.42% of active Twitter accounts are likely spam or fake accounts, based on a sample of 44,058 random accounts.

The two groups said it’s not unusual for prominent or large Twitter accounts like Musk’s to have a large number of fake followers. For example, SparkToro’s follower audit tool says that nearly half of the followers on President Joe Biden’s Twitter account are fake.

In October 2018, SparkToro also conducted an analysis on former President Donald Trump similar to that conducted on Musk’s account and found that 61% of Trump’s followers were bots, spam, propaganda, or inactive accounts.

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