Are many of Newt Gingrich’s 1.3 million followers fake?

If you want to know how important social media is becoming in politics, particularly in the US as a presidential election looms and debt battle has raged, you only have to look at the battle being fought in social media.

The White House took its debt battle to Twitter and now presidential candidate and former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, has been accused of adding hundreds of thousands of fake Twitter followers to his account to give him a whopping 1.3 million followers.

This has made him the most popular Republican on Twitter. Yes, more  popular than Sarah Palin who has only half the number of followers in comparison.

Amassing 1.3 million is an impressive feat, but it is a little too impressive according to Gawker, which claims that a whopping 80% of Gingrich’s followers may be fake accounts.

It says they were created on mass for Gingrich by agencies in an effort to bolster his standing in the growing political battlefield of social media.

“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,” Gawker claims.

Gawker’s story is based on an anonymous former Gingrich staffer. While it is well known that you can buy followers on Facebook and Twitter it is a risky business.

So far there is no proof other this anonymous source, but Gingrich’s elevation does look odd in comparison. Not only is he bigger than Palin, but his GOP presidential rivals are light years behind him.

Mitt Romney for instance has 62,000 and Michele Bachmann has a little over 66,000. They are social media minnows in comparison to Gingrich.

The source told Gawker that Newt employed a number of agencies whose sole role is to get him more Twitter followers.

What is certainly true is that a cursory glance at some of his followers shows a high number with no picture, no tweets and no followers.

That is in no way conclusive evidence as high profile people do attract a lot of spam follows. Question is did Gingrich add his own spam?

Business Insider says not. It claims it is “highly unlikely” that someone could build so many fake accounts to follow one politician and not get caught by Twitter’s spam team.

It argues that the reason he has so many is because Twitter added Gingrich to its “Suggested User List”  in 2009.

“When new users sign up, they’re shown accounts that are suggested to follow. Nowadays these accounts are filtered by interest by an algorithm, but for a long while the suggested list was an arbitrary, human-curated one, and it was known to be able to boost someone’s follower counts into the millions. So that’s the most likely explanation,” Business Insider reports.