I’d rather follow Sarah Palin any day. So how that does it make sense that the ex-governor of Alaska, mother of five and reality show superstar have only 600,000 followers on Twitter compared to Newt Gingrich’s 1.3 million? Short answer: He probably doesn’t.
Enter Twittergate. Internet search engine firm PeekYou told gossip blog Gawker that it had crunched the numbers, and it would appear that 92% of Gingrich’s followers are indeed fake. They culled together some data, trying to separate fake accounts and spambots.
(MORE: How to Tweet Like a Man)
While it’s not perfect, Newt’s numbers are way out of the ordinary – even for a politician. While about 8% of his followers are real, other politicians were deemed to have anywhere 20% to 30% of “real” followers. In comparison, the average Twitter user, like you and me, have anywhere from 35% to 60% real people following them. A former Gingrich staffer has supposedly alleged that he bought his followers.
Michael Hussey, the founder and CEO of PeekYou, said, “We have seen some pretty low ‘Consumer Ratios’ in our testing, but Newt Gingrich’s was the lowest we had ever seen. At first, we actually thought it might have been a bug on our side, but a quick manual look at the data showed our analysis was true.” Turns out Newt probably only actually has about 106,055 real followers. The firm also followed up on the claim that Gingrich bought his fellow Twitizens and succeeded at purchasing a few of them on eBay, showing that it was indeed possible.
PeekYou’s general business manager Josh Mackey definitely had a few things to say about it. “The huge majority of his followers are either completely anonymous people who have no other web presence, or they are spambots… When we saw [the results], we actually had our quality assurance people go over the numbers for two days to doublecheck.”
Erica Ho is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+ so she doesn’t have to buy followers. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.