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Research has revealed that more than 15 percent of the presidential hopeful’s followers are likely fake and are generated by paid services that artificially inflate social media influence.

The study was conducted by security provider, Barracuda Security, which analyzed about 70,000 fake Twitter accounts, as well as public figures who may be engaging in the shady act of buying followers.

@MittRomney stood out for several reasons: most of the followers are new, the user-base experienced an insane spike of 150,000 followers on a single day in July, and 1 in 4 of the politician’s followers have never sent a single tweet.

A single dealer would have the capacity to control upwards of 150,000 Twitter accounts.

These paid services are part of a thriving underground market. The report uncovered 20 sellers on eBay and 58 websites out of the Google Top 100 search results that sell fake Twitter profiles. Search for “buy Twitter followers,” and you’ll quickly find hundreds — if not thousands — of services offering to to set you up with a large following.

This news follows Twitter’s recent crackdown on services like TweetAdder, TweetBuddy, and other spammers that track trending conversations and purposely inject marketing materials.

“Our engineers continue to combat spammers’ efforts to circumvent our safeguards, and today we’re adding another weapon to our arsenal: the law,” Twitter said in a blog post this spring.

Buying a following on Twitter is certainly against the terms of service, but it remains to be seen whether the social networking giant will play hardball against the growing army of social media dealers.

Photo: Maria Dryfhout/

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