Over 23% of Elon Musk’s Twitter Followers Are Fake, Analysis Says


More than 23% of Elon Musk’s Twitter followers are spam or fake accounts, research groups say

Matthew Loh

May 18, 2022, 12:35 PM

  • Elon Musk’s Twitter followers are likely 23% fake or spam accounts, two research groups says.
  • Their analysis flagged users based on 17 warning signals that point to suspicious accounts.
  • This comes as Musk disputes Twitter’s estimates that fewer than 5% of its accounts are fake.

More than 23.42% of billionaire Elon Musk’s 93 million followers on Twitter are likely fake or spam accounts, according to a joint audit by two research groups published Sunday.

The two groups, SparkToro and Followerwonk, said their definitions of “fake” and “spam” accounts might not be the same as Twitter’s. 

They said they used a system of 17 warning signals, based on an algorithm that ran through 35,000 fake Twitter accounts bought by SparkToro and 50,000 accounts the teams marked as non-spam.

If one of Musk’s followers was flagged for multiple spam signals, they graded it as low quality or fake, they said.

When factoring in inactive users, which the researchers defined as accounts that haven’t tweeted in 90 days, a total 70.23% of Musk’s followers were unlikely to be “authentic” or “active users who see his tweets,” they said.

Fake accounts by the numbers

Analyzing all of Musk’s nearly 100 million followers, they found that 73% have spam-correlated keywords on their profiles and that 71% use locations that don’t match any known place name. 

And 41% of these accounts use display names that match spam patterns, they said. Notably, 69% have also been inactive for more than 120 days, the groups added.

The research groups also pointed out how 83% of Musk’s followers had a “suspiciously small number of followers,” and 78% follow an “unusually small number of accounts.”

As such, SparkToro said it defines fake accounts as “those that do not regularly have a human being personally composing the content of their tweets, consuming the activity on their timeline, or engaging in the Twitter ecosystem.”

On the other hand, Twitter defines monetizable daily active users as “people, organizations, or other accounts who logged in or were otherwise authenticated and accessed Twitter on any given day” through its paid products or platforms that show ads, according to the company’s SEC filing for Q1 2022.

The company hasn’t publicly revealed its full method for classifying fake or spam accounts.

SparkToro and Followerwonk’s estimates say around 19.42% of all active Twitter accounts are likely spam or fake accounts, based on a sample of 44,058 random accounts.

The two groups said it’s not unusual for prominent or large Twitter accounts like Musk’s to have a high number of fake followers. For example, SparkToro’s follower audit tool says that nearly half of the followers on President Joe Biden’s Twitter account are inactive, fake, or spam accounts.

In October 2018, SparkToro also ran an analysis on former President Donald Trump similar to the one conducted on Musk’s account and found that 61% of Trump’s followers were bots, spam, propaganda, or inactive accounts.


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