It's no surprise to anyone that there are fake Twitter accounts out there, plenty of them, or that people pay to have these fake accounts follow them on the site.
In a new report, BarracudaLabs looked at how hard is it to buy followers on Twitter, and what companies that sell these followers are offering these days.
For example, one of the most "professional" fake follower companies is offering guarantees such as five-year retention protection, i.e. the follower number won't drop for five years.
The company also guarantees that its fake followers will pass any validity test. Obviously, that part failed since the research firm was able to determine that they were fake – granted, by buying fake followers from the company.
The research found that the price of one thousand followers has dropped considerably in the past year, from $18 (€13.9) to just $11 (€8.5).
Several companies offering followers have millions of accounts under their control and some offer localized followers.
As for the people who buy these accounts, of those identified, the average has 52,432 followers, though 60 percent of them have less than 26,000. 16 of the 1,147 "abusers" that the report found had more than one million followers.
The fake accounts themselves were quite good. On average, they were seven months old. This means that, obviously, Twitter's fake account detection hadn't spotted them for a long time. In fact, only 0.1 percent of the fake accounts were less than three months old.
One way of achieving this is by duplicating real accounts. For example, the company found three fake accounts which were based on one real account. The Twitter handle had one character added to the end and the profile photos were different, but much of the bio info was the same. They tweet realistic looking messages as well, making it very hard for Twitter's automated processes to detect them.