How to watch for fake followers
The following is an interview with John Pritchard, a data scientist at the Data Science Institute, who recently released a paper examining the use of social media sites to vet the views of their users.
In this post, he explains how social media is used to vet fake followers, how to spot the trend, and what to do when you suspect a social media user has become a fake follower.
In his article, Prit, who is also the founder of the social media analytics company Datapoint, said that he has noticed a trend that some of his data suggests might have started in the summer of 2016.
He wrote that it’s become a common practice for Twitter and other social media companies to check whether people who are actively following the account have been verified as genuine or not.
This practice, he explained, “has the effect of making it more likely that a follower will be an actual follower and less likely that it will be a fake one”.
Prit has identified some common trends in the way that Twitter handles users who are following their accounts and the way they’re reported by its users.
He says these trends are common because of how these sites work.
Fake followers on Twitter Prit noticed the same trend in the use, reporting, and verification of followers on other social networks.
“On Twitter, you have people who have been following this account for some time, and then they see a spike in activity around the time they are supposed to be following them, or in the first hour after they are expected to,” Prit said.
“The spikes are typically just short bursts of activity.
I don’t think that’s something that we would normally see.”
Prit also noticed that there was a consistent pattern where people would follow someone with whom they were already following, and follow them until they were suddenly suspended or removed.
“We’ve seen a similar pattern with Facebook, and it seems to be the case here,” he said.
He also noted that these patterns often take place after users have been suspended, and they were not necessarily suspended for the purpose of breaking the rule.
For example, Put said that one user who was suspended for following a person with whom he had already followed was reinstated after the account was restored, but that another user who had been suspended for “failing to follow a specified person” was then reinstated after that account was reinstated.
“In this case, there’s no indication that the account holder has been suspended in any way,” he added.
The most common problem in Twitter cases, Prega noted, was the fact that “a lot of the suspensions involve users being suspended and then reappearing to follow them after the user was suspended”.
There was no indication in his research that any of these accounts had been involved in breaking the Twitter rule.
He did note that Twitter’s automated reporting system, known as a “reporter,” sometimes flagged users for a violation of its rules, and said that the system sometimes “misreports” suspensions to users.
“If someone is suspended for violating a rule and then it is reinstated and they have a follower who has a suspension, they will see their account suspended again,” Pregat said.
What can you do if you suspect you may have been a fake?
It’s easy to be suspicious, said Prit.
He said that many people would post comments on Twitter or other social platforms claiming to be followers of their accounts, and that the posts could have been made to try and trick others into following their account.
“They are trying to get people to follow their account and then tell you they’ve been suspended,” he explained.
However, Praa said that if a user had a problem with their followers, it was important to contact Twitter directly to let them know.
“There are a lot of ways that Twitter can try and find out what is happening, and people should always contact Twitter to find out if they have been an unauthorized follower,” he advised.
He added that the easiest way to do this is to contact the Twitter account owner, and request that they be contacted by the Twitter team.
Prit says that it can be difficult for people to understand how their followers might be reporting them as fake, or to identify any signs of their account being a fake.
“People often think they are just following someone and then are later suspended or banned,” he told us.
“It can be confusing when someone tells you they are following you, and the next time you see their profile they’re no longer following you.
If you notice that your followers are reporting you as fake it’s probably a sign that they’ve gone rogue.”
If you’re worried about someone’s followers getting suspicious and posting a comment about you on Twitter, Prenta advised that you should immediately report it to the company’s Twitter security team.
He explained that the company can take down your account and can also delete your followers’ accounts.
“Twitter does a good job of monitoring and investigating these reports, but if you