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Twitter Businesses The Almighty Buck

Fake Twitter Followers Becomes Multimillion Dollar Business 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the buying-friends dept.
RougeFemme writes "There are more than two dozen companies that sell fake Twitter accounts. Those that sell them claim to make up to one million dollars per week. Two Italian security researchers estimate that there are as many as 20 million fake Twitter follower accounts. It's very difficult to tell the different between fake and real Twitter accounts saying, 'Some fake accounts look even better than real accounts do.'"
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Fake Twitter Followers Becomes Multimillion Dollar Business

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  • by Anon, Not Coward D (2797805) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:34AM (#43391183)

    News at 11

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:36AM (#43391201)

    "Some fake accounts look even better than real accounts do."

    Well thank god for that. http://xkcd.com/810/

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'll bet this is a bot. Pulls random quote from the summary, follows with generic witty one-liner, then links to xkcd.com, well known source of slashdot pseudo-wisdom.

  • Only 20 million? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uberbrainchild (2860711) <markus@nOSpAM.tenghamn.com> on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:37AM (#43391213) Homepage
    I would have thought there would be more. I have 6 or 7 accounts but they represent either a website or sometimes a business. Only one with my name.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:51AM (#43391353) Homepage
      Also on the idea that sometimes the fakes look better than the real ones. Completely believable. There's a lot of accounts out there that are only created as placeholders. I have a few myself that I created for different domain names I own. Better to create the account and not use it than have the name not available if you decide to use it. It costs nothing to do this, so it makes sense to just create a few accounts for interesting names that you might want to use in the future.
      • WHO KNEW! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Monday April 08, 2013 @11:36AM (#43391811)

        There's a lot of accounts out there that are only created as placeholders. I have a few myself that I created for different domain names I own.

        And there lies the truth about Twitter: For the most part, Twitter is now simply an extension of commercial branding, as in "Nothing To See" and "Nothing Of Value Was Lost"... I mean, if you're really interested in reading Justin Bieber's latest drama in 140 chars... Twitter is now (and has been for some time) simply an extension of the corporate promotion game.

        As such, does it really matter how many Twitter Twaddle Accounts are fake? Most people who follow Twitter Twaddle are "fake" in more ways than one.

        • "And there lies the truth about Twitter: For the most part, Twitter is now simply an extension of commercial branding, as in "Nothing To See" and "Nothing Of Value Was Lost"... I mean, if you're really interested in reading Justin Bieber's latest drama in 140 chars... Twitter is now (and has been for some time) simply an extension of the corporate promotion game."

          If you really think so, you're doing it wrong.

          • If you really think so, you're doing it wrong.

            I'll bet you're one of these morons who are surgically mated to their Smart Phones...

    • "I would have thought there would be more. I have 6 or 7 accounts but they represent either a website or sometimes a business. Only one with my name."

      The 20 million "fake" accounts they're referring to aren't "placeholder" accounts or alternative accounts such as you describe. They're literally fake accounts, used for the sole purpose of inflating somebody's number of followers.

      And if you ask me, making use of such a "service" is pretty pathetic.

  • Oh Noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schivvers (823289) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:39AM (#43391229)
    Irrelevant things are not relevant! Why was/is so much stock placed on the number of "followers" a person has? It seems as though this places unwarranted weight/emphasis on opinions and people that shouldn't really have that. (Read this as Ms. Jenny McCarthy ranting about vaccinations being taken as relevant to a real discussion on health care.)
    • by Molochi (555357) on Monday April 08, 2013 @03:47PM (#43394343)

      The Facespaces evolved into an ad serving vehicle for corporations, but they still serve as a point of casual contact for people you know.

      VERY early on, like when it was in beta still, Twitter was being commented on by people who were already very famous and popular and who really should not have heard of it yet unless they were insiders involved its creation.

      Twitter was created purely as a way to serve "recomendations" to fans of famous people. "I'm reading book X." "I'm listening to song Y" "My cantidate is Senator Blarginsworth" "My favorite thing is...". IF they (the twitterers) get paid to post a specific recommendation then it stands that they'd get paid more if they have more followers. Fake followers seem like a high value scam of the system since the only work that needs to be done is creating the account and following people that pay for it. Those same companies that do SEO and Social Media Marketing have to put a lot more work when they blogspam and shill on forums.

  • Please someone explain how Twitter is a commodity. It it like *bitcoin* ?
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:59AM (#43391449) Homepage

      Twitter followers, like Facebook friends and similar sorts of social media, fool people into thinking that something is popular. A lot of the people who are fooled into thinking that something is popular are also gullible enough to think that because something is popular it must be good, and thus start buying the product / voting for the candidate / publicly praising the organization.

      The people who hire companies like this see the world as a game of hype, illusion, and fakery with the goal of having the next "Gagnam Style".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        whats "Gagnam Style"?

  • by meowgoesthecat (2872191) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:43AM (#43391263)
    One of the comments on the article was more informative to me than the article alone...

    "...When I needed to get people to pay attention to something quickly, I created a twitter account, paid for 30,000 followers, and then followed about 1000 people I had identified as having mattered. In return over the next two days roughly 400 of those "people who mattered" had followed me -- in part I am sure because my Twitter account said it had over 10,000 followers.

    Over the next two weeks Twitter killed off all of the fake followers BUT I retained the real followers who might not have paid any attention EXCEPT for the initial batch of fake followers.

    It is NOT about spam. It is about purchasing "legitimacy" quickly."


    You're welcome.
    • by c (8461)

      "In return over the next two days roughly 400 of those "people who mattered" had followed me -- in part I am sure because my Twitter account said it had over 10,000 followers."

      So... we're talking about people who think "people who mattered" are those who follow Twitter feeds mostly because of follower counts?

      Um... this may explain why I've never understood the appeal of Twitter.

    • by uncanny (954868) on Monday April 08, 2013 @11:54AM (#43392019)

      It is NOT about spam. It is about purchasing "legitimacy" quickly."

      If paying people to follow you made you legitimate, then Scientology would be a real religion!

    • by Beorytis (1014777)
      Where's the control in this experiment? How do we know that those 400 "people who mattered" wouldn't have followed back this user's account with fewer followers? Also, did the "people who mattered" actually pay attention to the tweets about the thing this user needed them to pay attention to quickly?
    • One of the comments on the article was more informative to me than the article alone...

      It is NOT about spam. It is about purchasing "legitimacy" quickly."

      You're welcome.

      Or at least the appearance of legitimacy. Next, Twitter will unveil a portion of their API where somebody can offer a service to "rate" the quailty of your followers and then somebody else will invent a means to manipulate that (see also SEOs vs. Google for the last decade or so) and we'll be right back here this time next year talking about companies that build "legit" backstories so your "fake" twitter accounts stay active "long enough" to count as "legit" followers...

      Cat, meet mouse.

    • by hkmwbz (531650)
      The obvious flaw here is that many popular accounts on Twitter will automatically follow you back if you follow them.
  • by OzPeter (195038) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:48AM (#43391319)

    Is how many of these fake accounts have real followers!

    • by Beorytis (1014777)
      Probably a large portion of them. There seem to be a lot of people who just "follow back" without even reading the account's profile or checking the account's tweets.
  • I just logged into my twitter for the first time in a year a so. I don't use it at all (just cybersquatting on my name, basically), have never followed anyone, and have never given the account name to anyone. Yet, I see that I'm now following 22 peeps from the White House to MLB to Suze Orman. Yeah, the following business is legit, all right. Not. If there's value to me being a Follower...show me the money.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you're wondering why Google wants real names and why Facebook briefly tried to get real names, this is why.

    Twitter as a commodity works because Twitter can be used to determine what's popular and these guys can manufacture popularity. The popular things will sell better or be received better.

  • What's the purpose behind hiring a bunch of fake accounts to follow you? Vanity? The hope that a huge number of fake followers will attract a huge number of real followers? Fake RTs?

    • by jxander (2605655)
      Purpose is simply looking important, at least for a little while. Hopefully long enough to gather some real followers before the fake accounts all get terminated.
  • Honestly, other than an ego boost, what is the point of buying followers? I thought the idea was to get eyes onto your information, not numbers. . . Anyone have input here?
  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Monday April 08, 2013 @11:29AM (#43391761) Homepage Journal

    "Some fake accounts look even better than real accounts do."

    Not that that's a very high bar...

  • by Beorytis (1014777) on Monday April 08, 2013 @12:16PM (#43392263)
    I just followed the link from TFA to the Social Bakers Fake Followers App. It identified 9 fake followers. Two area real people who I have had meaningful 2-way twitter exchanges with. One has actually collaborated with my wife on a musical project. Definitely not bots. A few are accounts intended to provide automated updates, so yes they're bots but good bots. It missed every one I suspected as fake.
    • It missed every one I suspected as fake.

      Maybe they're not "fakes"? Maybe they're just lonely vacuous people with non-descript lives who mindlessly follow people on Twitter to help pump up their self-esteem?

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday April 08, 2013 @01:08PM (#43392861) Homepage

    My 2011 paper "Social is bad for search, and search is bad for social" [sitetruth.com] mentions that. It also names providers of fake "likes", fake "+1"s, fake reviews (some of which are very funny), fake accounts, fake IP addresses, and fake phone numbers for fake account verification. There's a whole ecosystem out there generating this junk.

    Most of the sites identified in that paper are still in business. Some of the more blatant ones are "bulkaccounts.com" ("1000 Twitter accounts for $99") and "pvaspot.com ("We Offer Top Quality Forwarded Phone Numbers used to create Phone Verified Accounts with a no questions asked 100% guarantee at Competitive Prices with Excellent Customer Service."). The fact that the same sites are active after two years indicates that the major social media networks can't or won't stop them.

    As we point out in the paper, social media spam is cheaper and easier than link-farm spam. With a link farm, you have to set up servers, keep them up, fill them with fresh content. This gets expensive. With social media spam, the social media service hosts your spam for you, for free!

  • Could use this service. Oh wait he does that is why none of his followers registered to vote.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

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