Fake Twitter Accounts: A Lucrative New Commodity

Dennis Faas's picture

Italian researchers have uncovered a thriving underground market where people peddle fake Twitter accounts. The goal: to promote business ventures.

According to Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, two security personnel working on the study, illegitimate businesses and rogue individuals are selling dubious Twitter accounts to pad corporate and entertainment pages.

The study concluded that there are more than two dozen services currently plying this trade. Together, these services are responsible for more than 20 million fake Twitter followers that re-tweet information and perform other automated tasks.

The price for 1,000 Twitter followers is about $18, though sellers have been known to brag about making as much as $30 for a single dubious account. The security team also estimates that the entire practice has netted illegitimate businesses anywhere between $40 million and $360 million. (Source: nytimes.com)

Same Fake Followers Sold to Several Corporations

The bottom line is that sellers have everything to gain.

They create a single batch of followers and sell them to multiple companies, making thousands of dollars per sale. Surprisingly, companies aren't upset with having to share their false followers with other brands; in fact, by having their followers appear on multiple Twitter pages, a sense of legitimacy is added to them.

Celebrity Accounts Hit With "High Volumes" of Fake Followers

Reports have shown that celebrities like Justin Bieber, LeBron James, Katy Perry, and Ellen DeGeneres, have all been 'followed' by fake Twitter users. However, it's unclear whether these celebrities had any knowledge of this practice.

During the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney's Twitter following jumped by 100,000 people in a matter of days. Most of these accounts were later found to be illegitimate. (Source: indiatimes.com)

Analysts predict that this underground practice will only continue to grow in popularity.

That's because there is now software available for the average end-user to create their own false accounts. According to De Micheli, the service "fills in every detail. Some fake accounts look even better than the real accounts do."

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