x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Twitter's fake people

Fake Twitter followers for politicians are a new measure of the complexity of the social-media environment.

President Barack Obama has 17 times more bogus Twitter followers than Mitt Romney has real ones. Which candidate, we wonder, will take more comfort in this surreal statistic?

StatusPeople, a British company, says it has devised a way to identify Twitter followers that are computer-generated fakes, or real but inactive. And almost 70 per cent of Mr Obama's 18.8 million followers are synthetic or inert, StatusPeople reports. But he can claim almost six million living and breathing followers, to Mr Romney's 756,000 real ones.

While it seems unlikely that Mr Obama is personally buying followers, it turns out that anyone can purchase them online by the thousands.

For Twitter users who have taken to the network since it was founded in 2006, the tally of "followers" - a vaguely creepy appellation in itself - can be a source of pride. Being a social media power player has tangible rewards, too: a high "Klout" score, as calculated by a US company of that name, can confer VIP treatment at some clubs, access to Cathay Pacific's lounge at San Francisco airport, and more.

Faux followers may be an empty ego boost, but there's something fitting in that. How genuine is anyone's online persona anyway?