A social media analytics website released new software last week, free for public consumption, that helps people figure out how many followers on Twitter they have are either bots, spam, propaganda, or inactive accounts.
SparkToro’s founder, Rand Fishkin, wrote a blog post about it this week, indicating that individuals didn’t just search their personal accounts, but also celebrities and other public figures. By far the most prominent search, Fishkin wrote, was President Donald Trump.
So for some added fun, SparkToro, which ordinarily looks at a sample size of just 2,000 followers in its algorithms, allowed the software to look at every single one of Trump’s Twitter devotees to determine how many could be counted as “fake.” The results were curious, to say the least.
The research company found that around 61 percent of Trump’s followers fit into one of those four categories — a rate that is far above the median rate that is typical for an account of his stature, the site said.
Other users, including Democrats like former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, had high rates as well, of 40.9 percent and 43.8 percent, respectively. But those numbers were much closer to the median of 41 percent that SparkToro said was typical for these types of users. And while a majority of Obama’s and Clinton’s followers could be deemed “real,” the same could not be said, with confidence, about Trump’s followers.
“When compared to the distributions of other accounts, it seems likely that @realdonaldtrump acquired significantly more of these highly unusual and suspicious followers than others. We can speculate about why, but these numbers can make you feel confident in saying that the account likely reaches far less than half of the follower number reported by Twitter (at least, on that platform).”
To determine if an account is “fake,” SparkToro looks for “signals” that aren’t typical of active and real users. These signals include long-term inactivity, user accounts created within just a few months, using the default image in the user’s profile image, and the user typing in “spam-correlated” keywords in the Twitter bios. Ten signals in total are possible, and any user attaining a score of 7 or above is considered a suspicious account, according to reporting from Quartz.
In other words, out of all of Trump’s followers, three out of every five turn up a suspicious signal score of 7 or higher.
For a president who often rails on (wrongly) about a supposed “fake news” media, it seems that Trump himself has a much bigger problem when it comes to his own influence (or lack thereof) online.