Twitter has long been plagued by fake accounts given the easy nature by which users are able to create them. There are a number of examples, just look to the Syrian Electronic Army. The group, which supports the Assad regime, has attacked and famously taken over a number of high profile Twitter accounts including employees of The New York Times Company (NYSE:NYT) and Burger King Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:BKC). To add insult to injury the group then signs up for a new account and boasts of its actions on the very platform that it has hacked.
Twitter getting rids of fake accounts
In the buildup to the its IPO filing, Twitter went out of its way to rid its roll of both fake and spam accounts which prove a hurdle in attracting more advertising revenue. Thankfully, for many potential investors, Twitter does not scoff at the problem and realizes that it is quite serious.
In its IPO filing that was made public on Thursday, Twitter identified spam as one of the significant issues that could affect the company’s business. “Spam could diminish the user experience on our platform,” the company wrote in its S-1, “which could damage our reputation and deter our current and potential users from using our products and services.”
Twitter dealing with high profile names
The company has repeatedly dealt with high profile names stating that a large percentage of their followers are fake. Douglas Main, a writer for Popular Mechanics, concluded that nearly 20 percent of his followers were either fake or spam accounts. In the piece he wrote he mentioned a colleague whose followers were nearly 50 percent fake.
While that may seem a problem, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is largely believed to have purchased thousands of followers, something the Romney campaigned half-heatedly denied. A report surfaced that the number of fake followers could have been as high as 15 percent making the candidate appear more popular in the run-up to the election.
The going rate on websites found on Google shows that you can still purchase 1000 followers for $11 with little to no effort.
Twitter’s IPO filings
In its IPO filing, the company noted that, “We are continually seeking to improve our ability to estimate the total number of spam accounts and eliminate them from the calculation of our active users.”
Twitter added that, “We made an improvement in our spam detection capabilities in the second quarter of 2013 and suspended a large number of accounts. [And] spam accounts that we have identified are not included in the active user numbers presented” in the S-1.
While there is no certainty to its accounting, Twitter is presently estimating that fake accounts represent around five percent of its monthly users. This number is lower than Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) who recently reported in a quarterly filing that it believes that 7.2 percent of its users may be fake or spam accounts.