Quitter MP group’s Twitter follower data suggests followers bought or created to prevent falls in the total – but with the clumsy execution
The Twitter account of ‘The Independent Group’ of MPs, set up in February, has exhibited strange behaviour in its follower count that appears to speak volumes about the group’s claims to be ‘dump[ing] the old politics’.
The account’s Twitter following rose quickly after the group’s formation – but then plateaued and began to rise and fall – or at least its number of genuine followers did. And it followed a strange track.
The phenomenon was first spotted in March, via ‘audits’ of the group’s followers – and a pattern was quickly apparent. The audit of the group’s followers a couple of weeks ago showed a curious balance:
The total number of followers was 205,737 – of which 5,143 were identifiable at audit as fakes.
But 25 hours later, the number of genuine followers had fallen by 823 – while the number of fake followers had risen. By exactly the same number – maintaining the total at 205,737.
While it’s highly unlikely that an account with such a number of followers would spend twenty-five hours with exactly the same number, it could be a coincidence – and the change in fake followers might be a measuring glitch in the audit software.
But an audit shortly afterward showed the same pattern. The total number of followers had gone up by seven hundred or so – but then stuck at that number over a period of over two days.
And the account still showed the same mirroring in the rise/fall of fake/real followers:
Across the period of two days and three hours, the total followers remained exactly static – while the number of genuine followers fell each time it was measured, by exactly the same as the number of fake followers rose.
And the pattern has been maintained. An increase in total followers, followed by a plateau involving mirrored changes in real and fakes – as the audit conducted yesterday showed:
This time, over a period of a week, the total follower number remained unchanged, while the number of real and fake followers moved the same distance but in opposite directions – by 218.
It appears that someone is adding fake followers to the account each time the number of real followers drops.
The SKWAWKBOX wrote to the quitters’ press office email address, pointing out the strange pattern and asking the following questions:
- why is TIG adding fake followers to offset losses – or paying someone to do so?
- who is doing the work and how is it being funded?
- How is such obvious image management part of ‘dump[ing] the old politics’?
- if TIG is faking its follower account to avoid an impression of dwindling public interest, why should the public trust that anything else you say or do is genuine?
There was no response.
The quitter group has applied to become a political party – named ‘Change UK’, leading to hilarity as a petition company by the same name threatened legal action.
But it appears action should be taken for false advertising, because the ‘Tiggers’ demonstrate exactly the same superficiality, spin and desperate image-management that characterised Blair’s Labour and the Tories under Cameron and now May.
That is clear from more than just their Twitter account, of course – but it’s a perfect illustration, as is the group’s failure to respond with any substance to any difficult questions.
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