Romney roundup: 130,000 zombie Twitter bots suddenly followed Mitt

Published: Tuesday, July 24 2012 11:59 a.m. MDT

In this July 20, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Bow, N.H.

Charles Dharapak, File, Associated Press

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Mitt Romney’s Twitter account received so many new followers last weekend that several tech websites agree somebody must’ve paid for a significant chunk of those new Twitter followers.

Here are the pertinent statistics, courtesy of Twitter metrics website 140elect.com:

From July 20-22, Romney’s official Twitter account gained 142,412 followers — with “no corresponding increase in other metrics (such as) Romney’s mentions and re-tweets.”

“Romney was gaining around 3,000-4,000 new followers per day for the past month.”

During the past year the @MittRomney Twitter account never added more than 10,000 new followers in a single day.

If @MittRomney was adding 4,000 followers daily, basic math indicates a three-day stockpiling of 142,000 new followers leaves 130,000 of those additions unaccounted for. A cadre of websites that focuses on Twitter trends agrees that that sort of surge is too large to chalk up to mere coincidence.

“It’s obvious that someone bought followers for the @MittRomney Twitter,” Mary Long wrote Monday for Mediabistro’s All Twitter blog. “That anyone is even asking ‘did that really happen?’ at this point is absurd. The real question — the only question — is who did this, and why?”

Mia Trovato of Yahoo’s Trending Now blog noted, “Certain signs point to the possibility that some new arrivals could be ‘Twitter bots,’ as they have trouble spelling certain words and have no followers of their own.”

Zach Green, who first broke the story of Romney’s Twitter spike for 140elect.com, speculated, “Personally, I think this is too obvious for the Romney campaign to have done. It’s more likely somebody is trying to plant a story to embarrass him. The question then is: who controls 100,000+ Twitter accounts like this?”

Per BuzzFeed, Romney campaign digital director Zac Moffat “rejected accusations that the campaign was ‘buying’ followers for Romney, who trails Barack Obama's account by more than 16 million followers. ‘We have reached out to Twitter to find out additional information regarding the rapid growth,’ he (said).”

On Monday social media news website Mashable reminded its readers, “This isn’t the first time a presidential candidate has been accused of buying fake followers. Last summer, an ex-staffer for Newt Gingrich alleged that many of Gingrich’s followers were purchased from following agencies. A PeekAnalytics report found that 8 percent of Gingrich’s Twitter followers were individuals, as opposed to businesses or spam accounts (average Twitter users have 30-60 percent real followers according to that report).”

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