The Security Implications of Fake Twitter Followers

A recent New York Times story about the fake Twitter follower community got me thinking. The newspaper claims that this is a $1 million industry, with followers being purchased in bulk for about a penny a head. Why does Twitter tolerate this? Certainly, the company could easily fix this problem with some clever software engineering. Instead, they’re turning a blind eye.

But on further reflection, it’s not something that’s easy to fix. I have a Twitter account that I set up with some automated feed software, and I haven’t looked at it in a while. Yet it has 18,000 tweets. It was easy to set up and if someone were to come across it, they’d think it was a bot and not a real person. So how to tell? Exactly the issue.

Tristan Louis has blogged about this lately, too. He has some interesting analysis that shows how the top 25 Twitter accounts get more than the average number of fake followers. It could be because they have such large followings to begin with, but with great numbers of followers, it’s easy to see how a few hundred thousand fakes could be scattered around.

Of course, all this has big security implications. Accounts whose followers are mostly fake followers can pollute your network with seemingly trusted content that could spread malware.

Have you run into this? What have you done about it? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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