Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO and the world’s richest person, has put his deal to buy Twitter on hold amid uncertainty over the number of bot accounts on the microblogging site. Now, reports suggest that many of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Twitter followers, on his personal as well as the official account, are fake.
According to SparkToro, fake followers are "accounts that are unreachable and will not see the account's tweets (either because they're spam, bots, propaganda, etc. or because they're no longer active on Twitter)."
How many fake Twitter followers does Biden have?
According to the analysis by SparkToro, 49.3 percent of Biden’s followers on the official @POTUS account are fake or bots. In absolute terms, 11 million of Biden’s followers on the account are fake. As for Biden’s personal account, 14 million followers, which is nearly 41 percent, are fake, according to the methodology adopted by SparkToro.
Trump had fake followers too.
To be sure, the menace of fake followers isn't limited to Biden alone. SparkToro’s research showed that over 42 percent of followers of former President Donald Trump’s archived official Twitter handle @POTUS45 were fake. It didn't audit Trump’s personal Twitter account, which was suspended following the Capitol Hill violence.
Also, it isn't only related to political leaders. Over 70 percent of Musk’s 94 million Twitter followers are also fake.
Twitter says less than 5 percent of its accounts are fake.
Twitter has maintained that fewer than 5 percent of its monetizable users are fake. Twitter stopped reporting DAUs (daily active users) after 2018 and instead shifted to mDAU (monetizable daily active users).
Twitter had 217 million mDAUs at the end of 2021. The company plans to increase the metric to 315 million by the end of 2023.
Musk believes 20 percent of Twitter accounts are fake.
Musk has claimed that 20 percent of Twitter accounts are fake. However, just like many previous assertions made by Musk, including on COVID-19, even his claims on fake Twitter accounts aren't backed by research.
Musk paid a premium to buy Twitter.
Musk offered to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share, which was a significant premium to its then stock price. The board eventually accepted the offer after initially introducing a poison pill. Many believe Musk is trying to negotiate a lower price for Twitter with his antics.
The report on bot accounts on Twitter is coming at a time when Musk and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal have been in a public spat over the number of fake accounts on Twitter. Musk has said that his offer was based on the assumption that only about 5 percent of accounts on the social media website are fake.
Agrawal, who hasn’t exactly been supportive of Musk’s bid to acquire Twitter, said, “We suspend over half a million spam accounts every day, usually before any of you even see them on Twitter. We also lock millions of accounts each week that we suspect may be spam, if they can't pass human verification challenges (captchas, phone verification, etc.).”
The reports of Biden’s fake Twitter followers couldn't have come at a better time for Musk. He has been critical of Biden and is still smarting from not being invited to the White House. Musk has claimed that he will vote for a Republican in the 2024 U.S. Presidential election.
Also, reports of such widespread fake accounts on Twitter would help Musk put pressure on Twitter’s board to potentially agree to a lower price. The timing of the reports isn't a mere coincidence, just like Musk’s offer to sell Tesla shares around the same time as rival Rivian went public.