Newt Gingrich’s Twitter Followers Faked? Not So Fast.

by John Hawkins | August 2, 2011 12:02 am

These days, all it takes to create a scandalous story is someone spouting off anonymously to a major news source and next thing you know, it’s news, whether it’s true or not. In Newt Gingrich’s case, he’s been accused of buying most of his 1.3 million Twitter followers[1]. is suggesting that many of Gingrich’s Twitter followers may be manufactured. The post includes this explanation from a former — and, keep in mind, anonymous — Gingrich campaign worker:

”About 80 percent of those accounts are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various “follow agencies,” another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves …and the remaining 10 percent may, in fact, be real, sentient people who happen to like Newt Gingrich.”

Wow, an “anonymous,” “former” “Gingrich campaign worker.” If that’s not an unimpeachable source, who is?

Of course, what if there were a better, alternate explanation? Like Newt Gingrich being one of the most well known conservatives in the country and — wait for it — gaining thousands of followers per day by being put on Twitter’s “Suggested Users”[2] list in 2009?

Could that explain Newt’s 1.3 million followers[3]? Yes, absolutely.

A feature launched last month, called “suggested users,” contributed to the spike, explained Evan Williams, Twitter’s co-founder and chief executive.

As part of the sign-up process, new users are now shown a sort of featured personalities list that includes a wide variety of popular people and companies. Included are U.K. newspaper The Guardian’s technology page, Web personality Felicia Day, TechCrunch, actor Rainn Wilson, computer maker Dell, grocer Whole Foods, the New York Times and CNN.

Since Twitter began endorsing a handful of personalities in mid-January, The Guardian was among several entities to reap a subscriber windfall. Its account jumped from about 4,000 followers to 66,000 in about a month, according to stat-tracking service Twitter Counter. And within the last two weeks, @GuardianTech added new users at a pace about 300% faster than the previous two weeks.

Day, an Internet video maven, experienced similar results. She has jumped from 20,000 to 83,000 since mid-January. TechCrunch went …

… from 41,000 to 111,000 in the same period. The New York Times’ Twitter account increased its subscriber base by a factor of six — to 145,000.

Gee, what’s the world coming to when you can’t trust an unproven allegation from a single anonymous source?

  1. accused of buying most of his 1.3 million Twitter followers:
  2. Twitter’s “Suggested Users”:
  3. 1.3 million followers:!/newtgingrich

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