A study by Barracuda labs reveals that at least 11,283 ‘abusers’ with over 72,000 fake accounts were found.
Barracuda set up three separate Twitter accounts and purchased between 20000-70000 fake followers for each of them, using eBay and Google search results. Barracuda found 20 different dealers on eBay and 58 websites out of the Google Top 100 search results.
The findings show that there are certain characteristics of ‘abusers’, as Barracuda calls them, and fake twitter accounts.
Barracuda’s ‘abusers’ are defined as those users who bought followers (most of which are fake) in order to look more popular or to use the accounts for selling ads.
The average abuser has 48,885 followers and the average fake twitter account is following at least 1,799 accounts. The study also found that over 60% of fake accounts are less than three months old with the average age being 19 weeks. The oldest fake account dates as far back as January 2007.
Many of the abusers were found to have set a URL in their profiles which the data suggest might be for website promotion purposes.
Buying fake twitter followers is fairly cheap, costing $18 for 1,000 followers.
"A Dealer can earn as much as $800/day for 7 weeks of selling followings if they can control 20,000 fake accounts (estimated on several random fake accounts reaching 2000 followings in 7 weeks and assume each following involved a minimum $20 purchase)," said Barracuda.
Even Mitt Romney has been under suspicion of having a large following of fake twitter accounts.
Barracuda revealed that the nominee the former Governor of Massachusetts had an abnormal increase in new followers recently.
On July 21, 2012 his following went from 673,002 to 789,924, a 17% increase in just one day.
Barracuda reveals that 80% of Romney’s twitter followers were accounts created less than three months ago, 1 in 4 have never sent a tweet and 10% of those accounts have already been suspended by Twitter.
"Creating fake Twitter accounts and buying/selling followers is against Twitter’s ToS, and gradually erodes the overall value of the social network. Twitter keeps on detecting fake accounts and followings, and suspending them in last few years. However, if they do not move faster and smarter, these fake accounts will continue to be created, blended into the massive Twitter population, bringing bigger and bigger impact."
Please follow this author on Twitter @Tineka_S or comment below.