41% of Canadian Politician’s Loyal Followers may Actually be Bots

With the Canadian election in full swing, we’re seeing more and more political analysis of Twitter in the great white north. And while some (mainly the leaders themselves, as they go full throttle into campaign mode) claim that large Twitter followings mean more support for a party or leader, new research from Dalhousie University says this isn’t necessarily so.

Twitter follower numbers don’t predict voter support, says researchers. And they might even be falsely inflated because of a “bot” epidemic on Twitter.

Bots are, as anyone who has ever encountered them knows, one of the most annoying things about Twitter. They’re automated accounts that often send those “Thanks for following me, now buy my product” DMs every few days and random @mentions of you that have nothing to do with anything.

And it seems that even the top brass in the Canadian political arena isn’t free from the tarnish of the dreaded bot.

The Dalhousie research flagged accounts that appeared to be bot-like and found that upwards of 41% of Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe’s “loyal” followers (those that are following him and no other leader) are likely bots. Ouch.

And the other party leaders aren’t immune to bots either: the other three major leaders of the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties each had between 17 and 22% of bots on their “followers” list.

This is, of course, just a snapshot of political accounts in Canada, but it does raise the question of whether a similar proportion of Twitter accounts following you are bots… and makes you really think about how many of the claimed 200 million+ Twitter accounts in existence are actually bots themselves.

Bots range from the harmlessly annoying to the malicious and virus-infected link-spreading, so they’re not really contributing anything to the conversation on Twitter. It would be great if Twitter could weed out the bots, which would not only reduce the spam and clutter on the network, but would also free up a lot of usernames for real people to start using.

But until that day, politicians, celebrities, marketers and anyone else who toots their own horn whenever they get a new Twitter follower should probably think twice about celebrating a new follower in “iswearimreal12232”.

Via the Vancouver Sun