Steerpike

Tim Farron’s fake Twitter army

Tim Farron's fake Twitter army
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Twitter may not be the real world, but it sure does set the conversation in Westminster. Commentators once spoke of 'the ground war' of activists on the ground and the 'air war' of broadcast interviews, but increasingly social media is where battles are fought and won. This week an audit in the States found that nearly half of Joe Biden’s 22.2 million Twitter followers are bogus, according to a study by software firm SparkToro which reported that 49.3 per cent of the president’s followers are 'fake followers'.

SparkToro has defined 'fake followers' as 'accounts that are unreachable and will not see the account’s tweets (either because they’re spam, bots, propaganda, etc. or because they’re no longer active on Twitter).' The CEO of Tesla Elon Musk, who is attempting to buy Twitter, has proposed a potential crackdown on the sham accounts amid concerns over the growing number of fake accounts. So Mr S thought he would carry out a similar study about our leading politicians here in Westminster to see which one of SW1's Twitter-obsessed, self-promoting elite comes top.

And the results were somewhat surprising. For it seems that such fake accounts favour former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, of whose 287,000 followers some 158,000 – or 55.1 per cent – are deemed 'fake.' Clearly there's been a malfunction at those Russian bot farms, given the Westmorland MP's Remainer credentials. Runner up was Boris Johnson – perhaps less of a surprise given his post – who boasts a whopping 1.9 million fake followers, or 43.1 per cent of those who are following up. Bronze is taken by Scotland's selfie-loving First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and 40.8 per cent of her 1.4 million Twitter devotees.

Some 25 leading politicians were surveyed and of their followers, around 30 per cent tended to be fake. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Farron's successor Sir Ed Davey had near-identical 'fake followings' of 35.6 per cent each – though that translated to 182,613 and 29,296 respectively, given Sunak's larger audience. Around a third of Sir Keir Starmer's followers are deemed to be 'fake' with 33.9 per cent, just ahead of Priti Patel on 30.4 per cent and Nigel Farage on 30.2 per cent. Two rising stars on either side – Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Labour health spokesman Wes Streeting – were noteworthy for being among those with the fewest 'fake' followers, with just 22.1 and 18.9 per cent each.

Something to bear in mind perhaps next time a minor tweet storm blows up.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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