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August 2, 2011 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign is floundering despite his brag that "I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined." Maybe because 80% of them are fake. Or maybe they're not.

Not the old school fake of "I'll follow you, you follow me" ad infinitem, but -- according to a former aide -- from paid follower faking services. Allegedly, Scientology does this too.

Rebuttal: Politico, which earlier ran a glowing article on Newt's personal care and feeding of Twitter followers, defends him (and themselves) by saying that it's because Newt was on Twitter's Recommended Follow List (along with all the other presidential candidates).

Gingrich's entire staff quit his campaign this summer, and he is polling near the bottom of the Republican pack despite very high name familiarity.
posted by msalt (53 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gingrich was so 3 months ago and he is a diversion for the real candidate.
posted by clavdivs at 8:20 AM on August 2, 2011


By Newt's ridiculous fucking metric, Lady Gaga should sweep the polls in 2012.
posted by elizardbits at 8:21 AM on August 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


I mean, I'd vote for her.
posted by crackingdes at 8:23 AM on August 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I note that Wiegel's chart starts after Gingritch already had a million followers.. can someone go back further?
posted by empath at 8:23 AM on August 2, 2011


i completely misread two comments up as "Buy Newt's ridiculous fucking music" and was really confused.
posted by sio42 at 8:25 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget that Newt's campaign was dented a bit by the revelation that he and his wife owed Tiffany's jeweler between $250,000 and $500,000. That tends to inhibit donations.
posted by msalt at 8:25 AM on August 2, 2011


Intrigued by the possibility of buying twitter followers, I searched for a service. "Due to high demand and to preserve quality, orders are limited to 2 per person." Useful!
posted by DU at 8:33 AM on August 2, 2011


My theory is that the bulk of his Twitter followers are ex-wives and mistresses tracking him down for alimony.
posted by Skeptic at 8:34 AM on August 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


Gingrich's entire staff quit his campaign this summer..

Is he in the hospital and did the staff find a younger, handsomer candidate to work for?
posted by DU at 8:35 AM on August 2, 2011 [29 favorites]


lolgingrich
posted by Legomancer at 8:36 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


From another:
What method do you use to get followers?

Twitter1k, like most other services, uses the “follow” method. This is
the fastest and most efficient way to obtain REAL followers.

posted by DU at 8:39 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Newt's Twitter followers mostly come out at night.

Mostly.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:39 AM on August 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


I'd follow Newt's Twitter for fifty bucks.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:41 AM on August 2, 2011


Shit my candidate says.
posted by malocchio at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2011


A politician judging his worth in followers, as reported by a publication driven solely by page-views.
posted by docgonzo at 8:44 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, we might as well run our political system this way.
posted by fuq at 8:46 AM on August 2, 2011


The interesting angle to me was not the Gingrich hilarity, but the existence of paid Twitter faking services. Since that is a huge metric in getting book deals these days, it makes me wonder how many "social media success stories" are completely faked.
posted by msalt at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, you can get up to 25000 new followers the way this guy got 1000, by paying for them. Read the follow-up post, too; seems this guy ended up with closer to 4000 new followers and some of them are really angry to discover him on their Twitter list, as they have no idea how he got there.

There's also this TweetAdder software that finds people for you to follow that will follow you back (I'm not linking them because really, that's like spamming Metafilter).

That's just a couple I found, using the terms "politician paid twitter followers." Search took me maybe ten seconds.

I feel dirty now. I want to go look through my Twitter stuff and make sure I haven't been following anyone without knowing it.
posted by misha at 8:56 AM on August 2, 2011


Newt Gingrich should totally just tweet as if he's the front runner in the Republican primaries. Then he should tweet as if he's won the nomination, and then in 2012, he should keep tweeting as if he's been elected president. Newt Gingrich as Twitter's delusional fake US President would be a fitting end to the story arc that is Newt Gingrich.
posted by mcmile at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2011 [32 favorites]


The utter ineptitude of Gingrich and his staff is almost too buffoonish to be real. I keep asking myself how this man got into national politics, but then I remember that all he had to do was win a Congressional district in Georgia. We really need to raise the bar for electing people to Congress.
posted by briank at 9:04 AM on August 2, 2011


Newt Gingrich should totally just tweet as if he's the front runner in the Republican primaries. Then he should tweet as if he's won the nomination, and then in 2012, he should keep tweeting as if he's been elected president. Newt Gingrich as Twitter's delusional fake US President would be a fitting end to the story arc that is Newt Gingrich.

EMPEROR NEWTON I
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:13 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


/minor derail

Following up, it looks like maybe I am "following" some shady characters I don't remember following on my own Twitter stream! And, as far as I can tell, Twitter won't let you determine when you started following someone. Unless there's a program for that somewhere.

This might be a job for AskMe.

/end derail
posted by misha at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2011


...it makes me wonder how many "social media success stories" are completely faked.

I already wondered that well before I knew you could buy Twitter followers.
posted by DU at 9:18 AM on August 2, 2011


I'd make fun of Gingrich, but it seems pointless; he's a man who keeps cheating on his spouses while advocating family values and demanding fiscal responsibility while going vastly into debt buying expensive jewelry. He claims to have the support of the people as his entire staff abandons him...

I can't possibly make a bigger joke of the man than he's already made of himself.

I'd call him pathetic, but I don't think he's worth three syllables at this point.
posted by quin at 9:20 AM on August 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


It doesn't surprise me too much that you can buy Twitter followers. In my experience, if anybody believes something is worth anything, there's going to be somebody else selling it.

The only surprising part is that anybody believes that Twitter followers are worth anything.
posted by Skeptic at 9:23 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, we might as well run our political system this way

I await the day we select future government policy by pointing our laser pointers at our preferred choices.
posted by Theta States at 9:31 AM on August 2, 2011


The rebuttal article just claims that he must not have paid for fake followers because he already had lots of followers before his campaign started. But isn't it also likely that he either (1) knew he was probably going to campaign and started laying the groundwork far in advance, or (2) bought all the fake followers for other ego-boosting reasons beyond just the campaign?

I think Rachel Maddow explained at the beginning of his campaign how he's basically made a professional industry out of seeming like a viable political candidate so that he can get paid for speaking engagements and other fundraising scams.
posted by albrecht at 9:43 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I've been thinking about this since I first heard about it & I'm wondering if there's a way to objectively answer the question with math, specifically graph theory. shouldn't there be an algorithmic way to measure the interconnectivity of his followers & determine the truth/falsity of the claim? Or to put it another way, is there any reputation system out there that would be able to catch & discount an attack such as this?

I'm thinking there should be a difference in the mathematical topology of a faked up network of followers when compared to a genuine one. It'd be somewhat analogous to Benford's Law, that says you see 1 much more frequently in a real set of figures than a faked one.

So, any ideas?
posted by scalefree at 9:56 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


He is polling near the bottom of the Republican pack despite because of very high name familiarity.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:01 AM on August 2, 2011


I too often people mistake grabbing free publicity and political credibility for a political campaign.

- Newt Gingrich was never really making a 2012 presidential bid. At all.
- Sarah Palin was never really making a 2012 presidential bid. At all.
- Donald Trump was never really making a 2012 presidential bid. At all.

These people want to be on TV shows. Period.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:14 AM on August 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


As we all know, elections are decided by how many twitter followers you have.
posted by 1000monkeys at 10:17 AM on August 2, 2011


If they wanted to, Twitter could answer the question themselves. They have an in-house reputation system that they're keeping under wraps for now.
posted by scalefree at 10:27 AM on August 2, 2011


I'm thinking there should be a difference in the mathematical topology of a faked up network of followers when compared to a genuine one.

One likely difference is you'll see real followers tweeting among themselves. That said, older, more conservative people aren't going to use twitter in the way the average person does (no subset is going to be the same as the average, really), so I wouldn't be too quick to convict on that basis.
posted by DU at 10:28 AM on August 2, 2011


scalefree: shouldn't there be an algorithmic way to measure the interconnectivity of his followers & determine the truth/falsity of the claim?

There is a free software tool that claims to weed out fake Twitter followers YOU have. I didn't realize this was a problem either, nor can I quite parse why anyone would spend the time to eliminate fake followers. (NB: I haven't downloaded the software and it could be a virus for all I know. It's been on Ilovefreesoftware.com for a couple of years.)
posted by msalt at 10:33 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a free software tool that claims to weed out fake Twitter followers YOU have.

TwitCleaner will do this for you. You don't need to download anything; they use OAuth to get at your Twitter account (perfectly safe).
posted by desjardins at 10:54 AM on August 2, 2011


Oops, TwitCleaner analyzes the people you're following, so you can see if they're a waste of time.
posted by desjardins at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Either Newt Gingrich has over 1 million fake Twitter followers, which is sad, or he has over 1 million real Twitter followers, which is sad.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:02 AM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


#willfollowforfood
posted by fuq at 11:10 AM on August 2, 2011


I'm thinking there should be a difference in the mathematical topology of a faked up network of followers when compared to a genuine one. It'd be somewhat analogous to Benford's Law, that says you see 1 much more frequently in a real set of figures than a faked one.

So, any ideas?


It's definitely doable. To start with, there are several basic metrics of complex networks that could be used for basic comparison. Using this information, you could use a machine learning classification algorithm to classify whether a given follower network is fake or real.

First, grab the list of Newt's followers and then build the network/graph of who they follow. You're going to find some of them follow each other, some of them don't. Do the same for several other random people.

Once you have these networks, calculate some basic properties of them. For example, the average degree (number of connections) of each node in the network. The diameter of the network: this is the length of the longest path in the network, somewhat related to the sociological concept of 6-degrees of separation. The clustering coefficient, which kind of measures transitivity or occurrences of "triangle" links in networks. If I'm connected to a a friend, and that friend is connected to another person, in a social network there's a good likelihood that I'm also connected to the other person. Degree distribution and other things could also be used. The assumption is that in real networks some of these properties would be different than in fake networks.

So all of these properties would become features in your supervised classification algorithm. You'd have some test networks you knew were fake, and some test networks you knew were real. Then you'd feed it through the classifier, and it would "learn" which features are more important to a real network. Then you could feed new networks into the trained classifier and it could properly label them.

These are just some basic ideas, you could probably do more complex analysis of
M.E. Newman's paper The Structure and Function of Complex Networks covers a lot of these properties in detail.

As somebody named scalefree, I'm sure you already knew most of this though :).

This is related to an idea I had a few months ago when there was that post about fake female Facebook followers who were being used by political operatives to entrap people. You could use similar techniques to identify fake profiles.
posted by formless at 11:18 AM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


he is a diversion for the real candidate.

So, who's the real candidate for the Repubs?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:17 PM on August 2, 2011


"I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined."

Someone inform this guy that just because people can vote on electronic machines, not everything that is electronic casts a vote.

This guy will be reaching out to toasters and slow cookers soon.

Crazy bastard.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:04 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ask & ye shall receive. Social network search engine & analytics site PeekYou releases their PeekAnalytics Follower Report on Newt Gingrich. According to their algorithms 8% of his followers or roughly 100,000 are real.
posted by scalefree at 1:07 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


...not everything that is electronic casts a vote.

GOOGLE RONCO FOOD DEHYDRATOR
posted by griphus at 1:41 PM on August 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I await the day we select future government policy by pointing our laser pointers at our preferred choices.
posted by Theta States at 9:31 AM on August 2 [+] [!]


And the winner of the 2012 presidential election is.... Blinded 747 Pilot! However, after a tragic impact with the ground moments after the results were announced, the presidency was passed to his VP, Movie Theater Screen.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:14 PM on August 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


That PeekAnalytics report that scalefree linked to reported that Newt's percentage of actual humans among his followers is the lowest they have ever recorded. They thought it was a data error at first.

They're not exactly revealing the algorithm, but their GM of Product Josh Mackey says
“It’s determined by over 20 factors including name, location, social graph, social memberships, social network, social activity and produced public content. The issue is separating out the spam bots and anonymous accounts which can look a lot like each other; so its hard for everyone, including Twitter, to weed out the fake accounts.”
posted by msalt at 6:36 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found the comparison numbers for other Republican presidential candidates:
Whereas Gingrich rates 8% real followers, Sarah Palin is closest with a 20% ratio of real followers, by the firm's analysis. Mitt Romney has 26%, Michele Bachmann 28%, and Tim Pawlenty 32%. The average Twitter user has 35% to 60% real followers.

Also, to be fair, there is no way to conclusively prove any given user is fake. PeekAnalytics did look at every single follower individually, and concluded that "The huge majority of his followers are either completely anonymous people who have no other web presence, or they are spambots."
posted by msalt at 6:43 PM on August 2, 2011


By Newt's reasoning, Ashton Kutcher should be the president.

Thanks for pointing me to Tweetcleaner, desjardins! I had 8 bots to clear out of my stream, and almost 26% of my Twitter followees are no longer active/don't interact/only self-link/post paid adverts or feeds.

Great tool for weeding out the Twitterers I don't need to follow.

Plus, I ran the analysis on my own Twitter behavior and got the "Awesome" rating.

posted by misha at 10:13 PM on August 2, 2011


92% fake, like the rest of his campaign.

He's a friggin' fool.
posted by FormlessOne at 10:31 PM on August 2, 2011


misha, what is the risk or damage from having bots in one's twitter following pool?
posted by msalt at 10:50 PM on August 2, 2011


As we all know, elections are decided by how many twitter followers you have.

Only if Proposition 304 passes. And we all pray it will.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:12 AM on August 3, 2011


I love Twitcleaner's bitchy analyses of the accounts I follow. Amanda Palmer: "snob" (LOL). Fake Queen: "snob" (well, duh). Ex-rock musician I've known for 12 years and did my PhD with: widespread dodgy behaviour. Possibly a bot.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:13 AM on August 3, 2011


what is the risk or damage from having bots in one's twitter following pool?

1. Less-savvy friends might think the bot is legitimate because it's "connected" to you.
2. By not blocking and reporting, you're passively encouraging bad behavior.
3. It's like whack-a-mole, but at least there's one less spammy account in the world.
posted by desjardins at 1:26 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks! On the other hand, when you have 40 Twitter followers it's hard to let go.
posted by msalt at 9:10 PM on August 3, 2011


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