Do 3.2 million people really follow London mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter? We highly doubt it. Read on...
With Elon Musk's Twitter takeover on hold, attention has been drawn to the world of Twitter bots and fake accounts. Musk says the hold-up revolves around Twitter's claim that less than five per cent of Twitter profiles are fake. Musk says the figure is more likely to be around 20 per cent and there is lots of evidence to back him up. On Wednesday several news outlets - including the New York Times and Daily Mail - reported on an audit that had been carried out on popular Twitter profiles.
The auditors found that of Joe Biden's 22 million followers, a whopping 49 per cent were fake accounts. The same audit also found that of Musk's 94 million followers an even greater figure of 73 per cent were fake.
Another indicator of the proliferation of fake accounts can be seen in the level of audience engagement with some supposedly popular accounts. The aforementioned New York Times has 53 million followers listed on its profile, yet its posts rarely garner more than 100 comments. BBC News has several accounts. Its UK profile has almost 14 million followers, yet some of the stories it posted on Wednesday received less than ten comments and as little as a dozen retweets. Its World profile has more than twice the followers - over 36 million - but that does not show in the engagement it receives.
Perhaps one of the most stark differences between followers and engagement can be seen over at Time Magazine's account. Despite its supposedly 19 million following, Time can receive as little as zero comments on its material.
Sadiq Khan has two accounts on Twitter. The one pictured above is the larger of the two, but he also has another with 1.1 million followers listed. It was from the latter account that he tweeted an article he'd written for The Independent earlier this week, in which he bemoans a 'surge in far right terrorism'. The tweet attracted much more interest than his usual couple of dozen replies - more than 500 in fact. However, despite supposedly having a million followers, the comments were overwhelmingly negative towards the mayor. Many reminded Khan of his previous 'part and parcel' remark with regards to terrorism, while others noted that Islamist terrorism was a far greater threat. Some objected to his silence on the far left terrorists of BLM and Antifa, while others pointed out that he should be focusing on rampant criminality in London. One of the latter tweets came from Reclaim's Martin Daubney, previously a Brexit Party MEP.
The reaction to Daubney's tweet highlighted the absurdity of Twitter's claim that just five per cent of Twitter users are fake accounts. Whereas Khan had received 215 likes for his initial tweet - Daubney received more than 1,600 for his reply. Logic dictates surely therefore, that Daubney must have millions of followers himself. No, he has less than 112,000 compared to Khan's 1.1 million.
It could be argued that Daubney's response had been retweeted four and a half times as many as Khan's initial tweet and therefore garnered a larger audience, but that still doesn't add up.
Khan, it seems, is followed by a lot fewer people than Twitter suggests. The game is up and thanks to Musk everyone knows it. It's time for the tech giant to give up the game and give free speech a chance.