PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has never paid to boost his social media profiles.
But his office acknowledges some of his 1.4 million Twitter followers aren’t genuine.
“Neither he (Mr Rudd), nor his office, has ever paid to boost the Prime Minister’s Twitter followers, Facebook friends or Facebook likes,” a spokesman for Mr Rudd told AAP.
“What spambots choose to do in their own time is a matter for them.”
Spambots are automated programs that create fake social and email accounts to flood users with spam and a number appear to follow Mr Rudd, who is easily one of the most popular Australians on the social media site.
Telltale signs of spambot Twitter accounts include those with little or no personal profile information combined with zero or few tweets and very few followers.
An analysis of Mr Rudd’s followers list shows a number of accounts fitting that description – though it remains unclear what proportion are genuine.
Most famous people on Twitter have spambot followers – and there’s little they can do about it apart from the report the accounts and hope they’re removed.
It comes after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was bombarded by about 80,000 fake, paid-for followers over the weekend.
“We are working with Twitter now to remove the fake accounts and investigate who was behind this,” the Liberal Party wrote on Facebook.
“The Liberal Party has not purchased or artificially sought to inflate any social media numbers.”
By Monday morning Mr Abbott reached 208,357 followers – up from just over 120,000 two months ago, with most of that increase occurring on Saturday and Sunday.
Shortly after 8.20am (AEST) on Monday, the opposition leader’s numbers plunged to just over 165,000 as the paid-for accounts were removed.
His numbers reached 168,725 by early afternoon.
It’s unclear who paid to boost Mr Abbott’s account.
One hundred thousand Twitter followers can easily be bought anonymously online, with marketing companies offering to supply 100,000 new followers for as little as $274.
Followers can be added at a pre-prescribed rate, such as five per day or one per hour.
Facebook `likes’ can also be bought online for similar prices.
Queensland University of Technology’s Associate Professor Axel Bruns said Mr Rudd’s numbers were also boosted by about half a million in 2009 and 2010 when Twitter suggested new users follow him.
“We actually looked at the follower growth over time and there are periods from mid-2009 to the start of 2010 when Twitter recommended Rudd to people who were signing up in Australia,” Prof Bruns told AAP.
“To the point where you almost had to follow him to complete the account set-up process.”
Prof Bruns said it’s unclear if a big, genuine Twitter following translates into increased popularity at the ballot box. – AAP