The legal profession has a problem with fake Twitter followers too
As regular Legal Cheek readers will know, the problem of fake Twitter followers — identified in Monday’s Dispatches documentary on the manipulation of social media — extends to the legal profession.
Over the last couple of years we have outed some of the law firms, chambers and individual lawyers with an unusually high proportion of fake followers.
Some, such as barristers’ chambers 4 Breams Buildings, promptly deleted their accounts. Others got rid of some of their fakes, but by no means all of them.
The most high profile of these is solicitor and Daily Mirror columnist Dean Dunham…
Dunham’s follower numbers have plunged by almost 50,000 since we ran this story about his huge group of 72,000 Twitter aficionados.
Yesterday we put Dunham’s Twitter account — which still has over 26,000 followers — through three Twitter monitoring services, Status People Fake Followers Check*, Twitter Audit* and Twitter Counter*. Individually, these sites are not always accurate, but together they provide an indication of when followers may have been bought or acquired by auto-follow software.
Status People says Dunham has 77% fakes.
Twitter Audit says Dunham has 98% fakes.
(It’s worth noting that most Twitter users have some fake followers. According to Status People, Legal Cheek has 6% fake followers, Legal Week 10%, The Lawyer 11% and Guardian Law 15%.)
Meanwhile, Twitter Counter produced this graph of Dean Dunham’s follower numbers for the last three months.
Large drops in Twitter follower numbers, combined with a significant amount of fake followers, raise a question as to how many followers are genuine or inactive. It should be made clear that having fake followers doesn’t necessarily mean you purchased them for yourself. There have been instances where fake followers are dumped on people.
When we contacted Dunham for a response, he indicated that the period when he had 70,000 plus Twitter followers occurred after he had outsourced the management of his Twitter account. During that time he firmly denied that anybody connected to it had paid for followers. He added that those responsible for the account “have explained that they do use ‘follow’ software which follows users on the basis that a large proportion follow back and then unfollows them so your follow count remains low.” Dunham says that he took back control of the account after our 2012 article about his huge number of Twitter followers.
Yesterday he issued this further comment:
“You have made comment that I have an unusually ‘high’ twitter following. My twitter account @deandunham is not for my ‘personal’ use but is the twitter account that we use for www.youandyourrights.co.uk which is a free legal and consumer site. The account is used exclusively for this as can clearly be seen. I have been actively talking about legal and consumer matters on television for the past 6 years, on the radio and commented in the national press. People therefore have a very good reason to follow me as I provide help to those who need it and have absolutely nothing to gain from a fake following as my hard work in getting a message out there would only fall on deaf ears.
“At no time have we acquired ‘fake’ followers. However, we understand that nearly all twitter accounts have fake followers due to robots trawling twitter.
“We have spoken to 2 social media experts about the accuracy of the software that you have mentioned and others available on the net. Both said that i) twitter does not endorse any such software and ii) no software is accurate as they take measures of ‘small’ proportions of followers and make assumptions which are not always accurate (ie: if a follower has no or few followers and has not tweeted in the last 10 days they are classed as fake). This is not an accurate measure as many ‘real’ followers fall into this category.
“I get no ‘personal gain’ out of @deandunham as I do not get paid for anything that I do in relation to youandyourrights and my media activity as a consumer champion.”
Other members of the legal community with a history of strange Twitter follower activity include PwCLegal head of global legal services transformation Stephen Allen, who suspended his @LexFuturus account after this article was published (but has since returned to Twitter), and London legal aid law firm Blavo & Co, which once boasted of having 43,000 Twitter followers. According to the above checker services, follower activity for both these accounts is still irregular, with Allen now shedding follower numbers and Blavo & Co (@legalblavo) apparently followed by a very high proportion of fakes.
Allen told Legal Cheek:
“I had a problem with spammers from India — I’ve not looked at all of them but most seem to be Indian. It went up to 30,000 odd. I tried to delete a bunch — first manually (which took an age) and then using some software and then had a massive problem that crashed my laptop (have had to purchase a new one). I’ve decided to stop deleting as, 1. I don’t want to trash my account/pc again, and 2. I’m not in a race for numbers — I use twitter to connect and garner ideas — you will note I never report or rely on Twitter numbers or strength as others seem so keen to do.”
Blavo & Co did not respond to our request for comment.
*Status People works by taking a sample of “up to 1,000 records” of follower data, which it then assesses against spam criteria such as accounts that tend to have few or no followers and few or no tweets. The Telegraph has described its methodology as “limited as it only looks at a person’s most recent 10,000 followers”.
*Twitter Audit, which is not affiliated to Twitter in any way, takes a random sample of 5,000 Twitter followers for a user and calculates a score for each follower. It admits that this scoring method “is not perfect”.
*Twitter Counter is a third party application for Twitter.