Every Twitter user is aware of the fact that the popular microblogging site has become a hotspot for spammers who carpet bomb users with the usual pitches for easy loans, credit card offers, and penile enhancement pills. Twitter is becoming a cesspool of bot-controlled accounts and it is getting pretty bad, particularly for click happy users who automatically follow people who follow them. This activity, which many newcomers undoubtedly do just to be polite, opens the door to an onslaught of sales pitches from marketers all around the globe. There has been an increasing amount of reports about the underground economy that fuels the sale of tweets and followers, leading to some questions as to how popular Twitter truly is. With reports of 500 million registered accounts (300 million active, according to Twitter), what is the actual number of users on the website?
Back in 2013 Forbes performed a study that revealed just how many of Twitter users are actually fake. Forbes reports that:
Looking through data, we find that, on average, 42.44% of users are fake, while another 30.12% are inactive. This means that only 27.44% of users in that population are active on the service. If we were to look at Twitter’s 500 million accounts, this would mean that a bit over 137 million users are actually active on the site, leaving us with a question mark around the other 63 million active users Twitter is reporting. One could assume that as you move further down the list of users, the number of inactive accounts drop and the number of fake followers also does. Or could it be that the 63 million missing users in that count represent the population of fake accounts on the service?
We could try to look at it through the lens of inactive users. Twitter is reporting that roughly 40% of their registered accounts are inactive (since they have reported 500 million accounts and 200 million active users). This would mean that, among the top 25 most followed accounts, we have a more active population of followers, as only 30% are reported inactive. However, this also means that there is a 25% divergence between the two numbers. So if we were to apply the same logic to the Fake followers numbers, we may see that 31.83% of Twitter’s users could be fake, or roughly 159 million accounts.
A while ago Twitter officials acknowledged they’ve got a serious spam problem, and they’ve taken action to revamp their website, however, with limited success. For months they’ve been working to reduce the amount of spam, which the official Twitter blog describes as:
. . . the act of following mass numbers of people, not because you’re actually interested in their tweets, but simply to gain attention, get views of your profile, or to get followed back. Many people who are seeking to get attention in this way have even created programs to do the following on their behalf, which enable them to follow thousands of people at the blink of any eye.
Most of the actions taken by Twitter were over a year ago, and while they’re still actively trying to fight spam, it seems that they’re losing the battle. These days just browsing Twitter can make you feel nauseous, the constant bombarded of offers, incoherent tweets, and weird activity is enough to make anyone sick. How long will legitimate users endure this? Why is Twitter having so many problems while other social platforms successfully fight off spam? It is naive to think that this issue will be resolved anytime soon, as this isn’t something that happened last night. Twitter has been combating spam since its conception, and it appears that their staff is inept to deal with the problem.