I woke up this morning to find that a number of current and former presidential candidates were following me on my Twitter account. Or at least their fake profiles were — BarackObama4, MikeHuckabee47, SamBrownback4, etc. (I’m not going to link to them).
The fake profiles are full of messages like excerpts from news stories about each candidate, along with nonsensical statements about them.
One of the many reasons people love Twitter’s messaging service is that it is largely spam-free, as others have recently noted. Unlike your email inbox, there’s no clever way for a spam company to get a client’s message in your face, without your permission.
But spammers typically target any web service that’s popular, so maybe this morning’s fake followers are really just another sign of Twitter’s increasing popularity. If third-party web analytics firm Compete is to be believed, San Francisco-based Twitter’s number of unique US visits grew 4,368 percent over the last twelve months, to more than four million visits this past February (our coverage). Twitter itself doesn’t release its internal stats, but you can tell from this Twitter graphic that the company has a larger total international audience than US audience. And, of course, this is all just Twitter web traffic — not usage over SMS, desktop Twitter applications, and other places where Twitter exists.
Also, the real presidential candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are also using Twitter, or at least it seems so. In fact, Obama’s profile has one of the most followed Twitter profiles (he’ll also automatically follow you back if you follow him), and he even takes Twitter swipes at his opponent.
In the case of the fake candidates’ profiles, here’s what Twitter cofounder Biz Stone tells me:
Looks like somebody created these profiles by hand last October and then maybe created a bot to follow lots of folks. (For some reason, people do this because they think folks will follow them back.) This is considered abuse and we’ll take care of it now. Thanks for calling it to our attention.
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