By Rob | 16 Feb 2015, 12:00pm | Category: Social Media
On Thursday and Friday a couple of articles were published in the press about our App. One about David Cameron and one about @OwenJones84 and they highlighted some interesting points about Fake Followers on Twitter.
The articles were overtly political in nature, so I don't wish to delve into their specifics or take any sides. Also it should be noted, that on a personal level, I share neither man's politics so I regard myself as a neutral. What I would like to discuss though are the nature of bad Fake Follower scores, how our app works and give a clearer insight into the data.
According to our OwenJones84 Faker Page -- updated Feb 14th -- Owen has a faker score of 84%. This is of course very high and suggests that something unusual has occurred. It does not mean that Owen has purchased any Fake Followers. To put this in context Owen should have no need to. He's a very popular Guardian journalist, political firebrand and has a highly engaged Twitter account, so it's not surprising he has a lot of followers. In addition the amount of spam on Twitter should not be underestimated, it's a huge problem that Twitter cannot solve without ruining their network.
So why might our app register such a bad score for Owen? Essentially it comes down to the way the Twitter API works. To analyse 1,000 followers requires us to make at least 6 requests to Twitter. If you combine this with the way that Twitter limit requests per 15 minutes there is a natural block to the amount of data we can analyse in a short period of time. Our aim is to return scores within 30-120 seconds so currently we sample up to 1,000 records over the first 35,000-50,000 records we access. It should also be noted that Twitter return follower data most recent follow first.
What does this mean in Owen's case? My theory would be that someone has purchased Fake Followers for Owen's account. It is incredibly easy to do with sites like this for any Twitter handle. The account has then been analysed and because the most recent 50,000 or so followers are fake our app has generated a terrible score. Please note this is just my theory based on previous experience, I'm not pointing the finger of blame anywhere. Nor am I suggesting the first part and the latter part of my theory are linked in any way.
Now of course this does open up our app to the accusation that our algorithm can be gamed. It can, but only in extreme circumstances like Owen's. According to our data over 95% of Twitter users have less than 50,000 followers and 65% have less than 2,000. So for the great majority of users our scores will be perfectly accurate and reflect their true Faker Status.
In addition to this we also have a Deep Dive tool that over the course of a couple of days analyses far more data than our live tool. This is so we can validate the scores of larger accounts for those interested. On Friday I set this off on Owen's account to give us a better understanding of his data. The results are as followers...
- We sampled 16,154 records accross his follower base of 286,848 followers
- It returned scores of 26% Fake, 29% Inactive and 45% Good
This we believe is a much more accurate score and backs up our theory that Owen has a relative normal following for someone with his social status.
We hope this information clears things up and gives everyone a better understanding of how our app works.
If you have any questions please message us @StatusPeople or message me directly @RobDWaller.
Speak soon. By Rob | 9 Oct 2014, 01:00pm | Category: Social Media
On Saturday, October 4th, 2014, an exposed 'Troll' was found dead in a hotel room in Leicester. The 'Troll' Brenda Leyland was exposed the previous Thursday by @SkyNews as one of the Twitter 'Trolls' sending abuse to the McCann family.
For those of you not aware the McCanns' daughter, Maddie, went missing in 2007 while on Holiday in Portugal. The McCanns have worked tirelessly but Maddie has never been found and there are no explanations of what happened. Questions have dogged the McCanns for years in relation to their involvement and conspiracy therioes have developed and evolved.
Brenda Leyland was a proponent of these theories. As BuzzFeed show she tweeted regularly on the topic under the handle @sweepyface using the hashtag #McCann. There can be little doubt that some of these messages, or even many of them, would have caused the McCanns distress.
However there does not seem to be any sign that she was threatening or even rude. She simply criticised and questioned the McCanns' version of events. For me, and on this basis, I simply can't define Brenda Leyland as a Troll and she should never have been hounded by the media. Yes you could descibe her as odd, misguided or even obsessive or unwell, but not a Troll.
Highprofile cases such as Peter Nunn and Stella Creasy MP are making us over sensitive to Trolls. You could even say hysterical. This issue has been hightened because for the first time celebrities and public figures are directly exposed via social media to the people who love them and -- importantly -- loathe them.
The idolatry bubble has burst and many high profile figures don't like it. So we now live in a world where there is a Troll hidden around every corner, down every dark alley and behind every bush... We are beginning to conflate criticism with personal attacks and we forget that offence is purely subjective.
This is causing us to throw around the term Troll carelessly and in the case of Brenda Leyland tragically. It is time we put trolling into perspective. Social Networks are generally a very good place to be -- dynamic, constructive and friendly -- we should remember that. A more sensible definition of a Troll would be based around two points...
- They are directly rude.
- They make direct personal threats.
This would clearly seperate cases like Brenda Leyland from the likes of Peter Nunn who are actual Trolls. In addition the authorities should only involve themselves if point 2 is breached.
I hope we can begin to add some perspective to the subject of trolling, it's just very sad that it took a balls-up by @SkyNews and a death to highlight this issue...
Speak soon.By Rob | 8 Sep 2014, 10:30am | Category: Development
Good news, you can now view all the data we have on celebrity's fake followers via our new Faker Pages.
Over the last few weeks we have been releasing various updates to the Fakers App. The biggest upgrade has been to our API which now allows anyone to access the most up to data we have on Fake Followers.
This can be seen working with our new Faker Pages. Every account that has been checked via our tool now has a Faker Page -- with its own unique URL. You can see @KatyPerry's, @StatusPeople's and even mine, @RobDWaller...
We've also set up a Celebrity Page list so you can see all the data for our top accounts nice and easily. This should give everyone far greater access to fake follower data so they can improve their marketing and promotion activities on Twitter.
If you're interested in gaining access to our API please contact us at [email protected] or via Twitter @StatusPeople.
We will of course be making further updates to the API in the not too distant future.
We hope this helps and you find it useful.
Speak soon.By Rob | 3 Sep 2014, 11:00am | Category: Social Media
Twitter is awash with the news that nude selfies of famous female celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, have been hacked from their private Apple iCloud accounts.
One can only condemn the hacker or hackers for this gross invasion of privacy. And one does hope the FBI catch the perpetrators -- even if one wonders whether a similar non celebrity case would catch their attention.
But either way what can those of us who use digital tools and social media learn from this incident? One thing -- your data is not 100% secure online.
The response to the hack has been mixed. Some have condemned the hack. Others, like comedian Ricky Gervais, questioned why the nude selfies existed in the first place. And many have parodied the hack with the #IfMyPhoneGotHacked hashtag.
This has also led to some prominent figures and feminists to suggest the hack and response were sexist...
There is no doubt these women were blameless victims of a crime against their property.
However we should not let that fact cloud reality. And the reality is data of any type stored online is not 100% secure. Even with the best minds and will in the world -- and a tonne of money -- data will never be entirely secure online.
Most people who work in development and software know that online security is about the value of the data stored vs our inability to make it 100% secure. The aim therefore is to make the process of hacking too time consuming and difficult in relation to the value of the data.
In terms of iCloud and the average user's photos the system is probably more than secure. That is to say hacking iCloud for an average person's photos would just be a waste of time. However celebrity data is different and has far greater value, which explains the willingness to carry out the hack. And to be fair to the developers of iCloud they probably hadn't thought about a celebrity usage scenario.
So what does this mean for us, the average internet user? Well it is very simple, always assess the value of the data you put online and where you put it -- whether that be photos, text, information, financial data, etc...
Data placed on a social network like Twitter or Facebook is not going to be very secure. Data stored on services like Dropbox or just stored on a PC connected to the internet will be more secure. But ultimately if you have data that is very sensitive and or personal, keep it offline entirely.
A simple rule of thumb might be to suggest that if you don't want the NSA or GCHQ to see it -- keep it offline...
Hope this helps and please let us know your thoughts @StatusPeople.
Speak soon.By Rob | 18 Aug 2014, 01:45pm | Category: Social Media
Over the last couple of weeks we have been doing some research on the current state of Fake Followers on Twitter. This is so we could begin updating our algorithms to offer a better and more accurate service. And last week we released our first update -- refinement will continue for the next month or so...
To do our research we purchased some 'Followerz' from a well known spammer for our test account @FakersApp -- about 1,000. The research has revealed a number of interesting trends...
First of all, and most importantly, the Fake Follower bots have become much more sophisticated. One thing to note is that profile and image data is being completed much more accurately.
In addition each bot is not spamming to the same extent they were. The modern bots are following a few hundred accounts rather the 1,000+ accounts of 'yestayear'... The lack of followers still remain but the relationship between follows and followers is no longer quite as extreme.
Some interesting new spam flags have appeared though. If you look at the tweets that many of these accounts produce they rarely make any sense nor have any relationship to each other. But most telling is that none of them contain links. We're not quite sure why this is but we believe it may have something to do with phishing filters that Twitter may already have in place.
And finally another interesting development seems to be that the spammers are beginning to use private accounts. This would make some sense as it means tools like ours can't then analyse any of the content produced by these bots. Quite how this works with Twitter though we're not sure.
As should be clear the Twitter spam landscape is continually evolving and our work will have to continue if we are to keep on top of this issue.
We hope this info is useful and if you have any thoughts on these issues let us know at @StatusPeople.