PUBLISHED: 15:58 EST, 24 September 2013 | UPDATED: 20:57 EST, 24 September 2013
Among influential U.S. political tweeters, President Barack Obama is the undisputed king of the fake followers. A MailOnline analysis ranks his sizable Twitter following as the most deceptive total among the 21 most influential accounts run by American politicians: More than 19.5 million of his 36.9 million Twitter followers are accounts that don’t correspond to real people.
The four phoniest accounts in the sample, which included Democratic and Republican Party leaders in Washington, D.C., were those belonging to President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and the White House communications shop.
Of the president’s 36.9 million Twitter followers, an astonishing 53 per cent – or 19.5 million – are fake accounts, according to a search engine at the Internet research vendor StatusPeople.com. Just 20 per cent of Obama’s Twitter buddies are real people who are active users.
Overall, the five most influential accounts linked to the Obama administration – the first lady has two – account for 23.4 million fake followers.
Biden’s nonexistent fans make up 46 per cent of his Twitter total, with 20 per cent being ‘real’ followers. The White House’s followers are 37 per cent fake and 25 per cent active; the first lady’s primary account is 36 per cent fake and 29 per cent active.
The Daily Caller reported on Tuesday that Michelle Obama’s Twitter followers included nearly 2 million nonexistent people, a number that lines up with MailOnline’s findings.
The difference between fake followers and ‘real’ ones is comprised of ‘inactive’ accounts, which may relate to real people but no longer send tweets with any regularity.
There are several reasons why so many followers of a given Twitter account might be considered ‘fake.’ In some cases, direct marketers and other spammers follow influential accounts en masse, hoping to be followed in return.
Twitter’s own CEO, Dick Costolo, has a personal feed followed by 1.1 million people, but 31 per cent of them are fake.
There is also the possibility that prominent politicians are buying blocks of Twitter followers. Such an accusation was leveled at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.
The digital security company Baccardua Labs told The Guardian that Romney’s surge of new followers at the time were ‘not from a general Twitter population but most likely from a paid Twitter follower service.’
‘Romney’s newest followers could have been paid for by himself, his associates or by his opponents. So far, there is not a feasible way to confirm who is responsible,’ said the report’s author, Jason Ding.
No such report about Obama’s social media accounts was published.
One British company called Buy More Followers advertises online that it offers ‘a wide range of packages,’ providing as many as 100,000 artificial but ‘real looking’ Twitter followers for a relatively modest £189.99. The company also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The most genuine follower totals in MailOnline’s sample were those of the four congressional ‘whips’ – the second-in-command members in each party who enforce discipline and count heads before votes are called.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, boasts a Twitter account with only 11 per cent ‘fake’ followers, a number matched by Minority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican.
‘Twitter is a great medium for Sen. Cornyn to stay in direct contact with Texans,’ press secretary Megan Mitchell said.
GOP House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California was second-best among Republicans, with 12 per cent of his followers lacking pulses and names. Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland came next with 13 per cent.
‘Twitter and other social media platforms are an effective method for online conversations about important issues in Congress,’ said Hoyer spokesperson Amanda Ott, noting that her boss ‘continues to emphasize engaging with his constituents and the broader American public through social media.’
Near the other end of the scale, however, four of the most prominent House and Senate leaders – from both major parties – gave the Obama administration a run for its money.
Playing it straight: GOP Sen. John Cornyn (L) and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin (R) had the best records, with just 11 per cent of their Twitter followers regarded as phony
House Speaker John Boehner had the worst record among members of Congress whose Twitter accounts MailOnline sampled. One-third of his speaker account’s followers – 33 per cent – are fake, which is a greater proportion than the 30 per cent who exist and are active tweeters. Boehner also has a second account with a 24 per cent ‘fake’ rating.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid followed with 29, 29 and 28 percent fake followers, respectively.
The White House offered no reply to messages seeking comment