More than half of Elon Musk’s Twitter followers appear to be fake

World’s richest person pledged to ‘defeat the spam bots or die trying’ after takeover announced, though succeeding could reduce his followers by half

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 02 May 2022 10:36 BST
<p>Elon Musk has nearly 90 million Twitter followers, making him the eighth most popular user on the platform</p>

Elon Musk has nearly 90 million Twitter followers, making him the eighth most popular user on the platform

More than half of Elon Musk’s followers on Twitter are fake, according to an online auditing tool.

Figures from SparkToro estimate that 53.3 per cent of Mr Musk’s followers are “fake followers” – meaning they are either spam accounts, bots, or no longer active.

The world’s richest person is currently involved in a takeover bid of the social media platform, which he has pledged to rid of spam bots and scam accounts.

“If our Twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying,” he tweeted on 21 April.

Twitter announced last week that it had accepted an offer of $44 billion, making it one of the largest tech acquisitions in history, with the deal expected to be completed by October.

Mr Musk has close to 90 million Twitter followers, making his account the eighth most popular on the platform.

Even for accounts with a similar-sized following, Mr Musk has a disproportionately large number of fake followers, according to the auditing service.

“This audit analuses a sample of 2,000 random accounts from the most recent 100,000 accounts that follow elonmusk, then looks at 25+ factors correlated with spam/ bot/ low quality accounts,” SparkToro explained.

SparkToro’s auditing tool shows that Elon Musk has a disproportionately high number of fake Twitter followers

As the new owner of Twitter, Mr Musk also said he would “authenticate all real humans” as part of his crackdown on inauthentic activity.

Mr Musk, a vocal cryptocurrency advocate, has been plagued by scammers in recent years, who frequently post in his replies in an attempt to trick his followers into sending them bitcoin.

A common tactic of the scammers is to impersonate the tech billionaire with similar-looking accounts, which then hold “crypto giveaways” requiring victims to send bitcoin (BTC) or Ethereum (ETH) in order to ostensibly receive double the amount in return.

A campaign tracked by The Independent in 2018 found that more than 400 people had fallen victim to the scam, with thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies sent to criminals.

Mr Musk described the crypto scammers as the “single most annoying problem on Twitter”, and when announcing his takeover bid last month, he said he wanted to make Twitter “better than ever by enhancing the product with new features [and] making the algorithm open source to increase trust.”

The Independent has reached out to Twitter for comment.

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