The “single most annoying problem” with Twitter isn’t accounts run by guys who take selfies in their car while wearing sunglasses — it’s bots. That’s according to Twitter’s potential new owner Elon Musk, who recently asked his 90 million definitely human followers if they want an edit button. When someone replied, “Elon, you need to do something about these Crypto spam bots. They’re getting really annoying. Improving the verification system to prove that you’re an actual *real* human would help with this,” Musk wrote back, “Yeah, single most annoying problem on twitter imo.”
The Tesla founder wants Twitter to be made up of “all real humans,” but that could put a major dent in his followers: Twitter auditing tool SparkToro “estimates that roughly 48 percent [of Musk’s followers] are fake,” according to Time. (“Fake” being defined as “unreachable and will not see the account’s tweets, either because they’re spam, bots, propaganda, etc. or because they’re no longer active on Twitter”):
Musk has nearly 7% more fake followers than the median 41% that accounts with a similar sized followings have, SparkToro reports. By analyzing more than 25 factors correlated with spam, bots, and low quality accounts, the auditing tool found that accounts that are on an unusually small number of lists, accounts that have no url or a non-resolving url in their profile, and accounts that have a suspiciously small number of followers were some of the most frequently observed traits of a sample of 2,000 random accounts from the most recent 100,000 accounts that followed Musk.
Musk’s 48 percent “fake” followers is in the ballpark of other prominent Twitter accounts, including Bill Gates (46 percent) and Kim Kardashian (45 percent). He’s the seventh most-followed account on the social media platform overall, after Barack Obama, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Taylor Swift, all of whom would also take a big hit if bots were miraculously kicked off Twitter. Except for the bots with Rick and Morty quotes in their bios. They’ll be allowed to stay.