On Wednesday morning, the Twitter account of London criminal set 4 Breams Buildings boasted almost 15,000 followers – far more than any other barristers' chambers.
By the end of the day, after Legal Cheek had contacted 4 Breams with a request for comment on evidence that most of its Twitter followers were fake, the account had disappeared. It has since been replaced with a new account that, to date, has just 35 followers.
As you can see below in the graph from Twitter Counter, the Twitter monitoring service, 4 Breams Buildings spent the last few months rapidly losing followers from its old account, with numbers dropping from almost 17,000 to below 15,000.
Most of the remaining followers were classic fake accounts, which had never tweeted but followed hundreds of people, of the type discussed in these recent articles in The Sunday Times (£) and The Telegraph – both of which featured our July scoop about police commissioner candidate Mervyn Barrett's huge haul of fake Twitter followers.
The number of websites selling fake Twitter followers has proliferated recently, with 1,000 followers costing as little as £8.
When I spoke to a member of 4 Breams Buildings with shared responsibility for the chambers Twitter account on Wednesday evening, he refused to confirm or deny whether or not the set had purchased Twitter followers, stating only that: "We’ve had a look and decided to open another account and shut down the old one."
Chambers which have purchased Twitter followers could find themselves falling foul of Bar Standards Board (BSB) regulations. According to 710.2 of the BSB Code of Conduct:
"Advertising or promotion must not:
(a) be inaccurate or likely to mislead;
(b) be likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or the administration of justice or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute"