An anonymously sourced report in Gawker on Monday raised questions about presidential hopeful and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s Twitter account.
The report, which relied on the words of who it said was a former Gingrich staffer — perhaps one of the ones who walked out en masse in June? — accused Gingrich of buying about 80 percent of his Twitter followers from social media companies that boost your follower account to increase your social media profile.
Slate’s David Weigel and others have said the claim is probably bogus, pointing to the fact that Gingrich spent a lot of time on Twitter’s Suggested Users List and had plenty of followers well before his campaign began. Not to mention, Weigel said, there’s no evidence in finance reports that the campaign spent money to buy followers.
Still, PeekYou, a company that analyzes individuals’ digital footprints on the Web, found that only eight percent of Gingrich’s followers were verifiable people. The company found this figure a few weeks ago while working on a project unrelated to the Gawker report.
The number was so low that the company thought their tool was broken, said chief executive Michael Hussey. Hussey said that the company determines whether a Twitter account belongs to a real person by looking at where the name and other attributes appear around the Web.
“Human beings who use the Web tend to exist off the Internet,” he said. “Bots don’t.”
Hussey said that Gingrich’s number of verifiable human followers — what the company calls a consumer ratio — is much lower than the average of about 30 to 35 percent. Other presidential candidates the company has analyzed have generally fallen in that range.
He did say that the company not only excludes spam bots, but also business accounts and private accounts when determining the ratio.
“We’re not saying that 92 percent of his followers are spam,” Hussey said. “We’re working on the breakdown now, but generally, the lower the consumer ratio, the more spam there generally is.”
And what does Gingrich’s campaign have to say about all this? Campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond sent out the following Tweet denial on Monday night:
Gingrich has emerged as an unlikely social media darling, earning praise from Politico for his personable Twitter account, and picking up over 9,600 contacts on Google +, Google’s nascent social network. The presidential candidate has held a couple of video hangouts on the site and even had them posted to YouTube.