Social Media

Fake Twitter Followers? 50 Cent And Diddy Included On Researchers’ List [Updated]

Iamdiddy-twitterFake social media followers have been getting a new wave of media attention due to the research of Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli as reported by the NY Times. Now they're saying 50 Cent and Diddy have fake followers as do a number of big brands and politicians. However, only one reporter seems to have seen the research or the list and she shares relatively little information which seems rather odd.

Last month a post on a NY Times blog titled "Fake Twitter Followers Become Multimillion-Dollar Business" got quite a bit of attention among tech and social media circles on the web. It claimed that two "Italian security researchers," Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, had been:

"investigating the underground economy for Twitter followers and said they had found a thriving market…estimate that there are now as many as 20 million fake follower accounts…[and] that fake Twitter followers offered potential for a $40 million to $360 million business."

If that's correct and if estimates of 500 million existing accounts are correct that puts fake follower accounts on Twitter at 4%. I can't decide if that's a lot or a little given the nature of the Web.

Last week Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli were back in the news and Nicole Perlroth is again reporting on their research for the NY Times:

"In a follow-up to their earlier report, two Italian security researchers, Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, call out Twitter accounts that added or lost a large number of followers in one day. Their list includes brands like Pepsi, Mercedes-Benz and Louis Vuitton; politicians like Newt Gingrich, Representative Jared Polis and Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian prime minister; and the rappers 50 Cent and Sean Combs, known as Diddy."

Sudden increases and decreases in social media follower and view numbers on a large scale is a typical method for identifying fakes. For example, that's one of the factors that led me to conclude that BAKER'S YouTube views are fake.

Regarding fake followers of Diddy and 50 Cent:

"The researchers also call out Diddy, whose verified @iamdiddy account gained 185,399 Twitter followers one day last June — a 3,063 percent increase from the account’s average daily gain — and then inexplicably lost 393,665 followers one day last month, 6,504 percent more that his average daily follower loss. A representative for Mr. Combs did not return a request for comment."

"Likewise, 50 Cent lost more than 190,342 Twitter followers over the course of one day last January, a 5,370 percent jump from his average daily follower loss. A representative for 50 Cent did not respond to a request for comment."

Given the fakery and spam that characterizes hip hop media on the web, something I observed at close hand for a number of years in the Oughts, it's not that surprising that 50 and Diddy would have a bunch of fake followers at various points in time.

But it would be a bit more interesting to get a look across major stars' accounts and to combine that with an analysis of how many of the current accounts are active. Of course, that's a lot of research.

What's odd to me is that the only person who seems to have seen this research is Nicole Perlroth. For example, Andrea Stroppa's Twitter account links to her articles but not to a location for checking out his methodology or results that I can find. The actual research doesn't seem to be available publicly and other writers simply link to Perlroth.

I've got a tweet and email in to Stroppa. I'll update with whatever he shares.

Update: Though Stroppa has been responding to individuals on Twitter, I have not heard from him by Twitter or by email. Honestly, this looks at least as suspicious as 50 Cent and Diddy's Twitter followers. However, most people on the web don't really care and I'm leaving it at that given that the "research findings" are basically a rehash of old news. Let's consider it additional food for thought.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. You should investigate the rumors about if were the ones who have been providing 50 Cent with the fake Twitter followers.

  2. it’s also possible to end up on the lists of “who to follow” which yield thousands of fake follows. it’s hard to know how the fake follows were acquired, it’s not always a purposeful procedure but rather the default of ending up on numerous spam lists.

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