Does Louise Mensch have 80,000 fake followers on Twitter?

A Twitter stats website suggests that 97% of her followers are fake. (UPDATE: Someone's messing with Mensch.)

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Last week, Liberal Conspiracy' Sunny Hundal revealed an epidemic of low-level Tories buying fake followers on Twitter:

We looked into the accounts of Conservative activists, many of whom were connected to the Young Britons Foundation (YBF), and found unusual jumps in their Twitter followers.

But today, it looks like someone considerably more high profile has been caught in the act. Twitter statistics site just launched their fake follower checker, and showing up right at the top of the wall of shame is one @LouiseMensch:

If 97 per cent of Mensch's followers were fake, that would leave her with just 2,500 real people – which would hardly make her the sort of social media powerhouse who ought to launch her own twitter clone.

But delving into how StatusPeople works out its figures reveals what might have happened to Mensch. They define a "fake follower" as someone who looks like, or is, a spam account. And indeed, if you scroll a bit down Mensch's followers list, you'll find around one hundred straight away who all have stolen pictures and bios, follow 3-5 people, have exactly 97 people following them, and haven't tweeted once. Pretty obviously these are fake accounts.

But does she really have 80,000 fake followers out of her 83,000 total, as StatusPeople suggest? There we fall prey to Twitter's limitations. Because StatusPeople actually only looks at the most recent 10,000 followers. Which leaves people in a bit of a pickle if the majority of their last 10,000 are fake. And as Milo Yiannopoulos pointed out this morning, Mensch's follower count jumped by 20,000 in a day:

So what seems to have happened is Mensch - or someone else - bought 20,000 followers for her yesterday, just before StatusPeople looked at her last 10,000 to find out how many were fake. With a sample that bad, it overestimated the number of fake followers she has overall, and reported a dodgy stat.

Does she have 80,000 fake followers? No. But she does appear to have 20,000, and it will be interesting to hear where she thinks they came from.

Update: But on Twitter, a conspiracy is blooming. Who, people ask, might have benefited from Mensch getting 20,000 fake followers yesterday? Probably not her; the leap from 63,000 to 83,000 is small, and the risk of reputational damage is great. But if you were a startup with low profile, wanting to go viral quickly, it would help to ensure that someone famous was on your wall of shame from the start. . .

Update 2: Alright, someone is definitely messing with the Mensch. She has just gained a further 20,000 followers since this post was published, pushing her up to 105,000.

Update 3: And Louise Mensch strenuously denies that she has bought any followers, confirming the "messing with Mensch" hypothesis:

I have 66k genuine followers and while I've been off Twitter some loser spams 20k fakes onto the acct, then 20k more.

That means that there appears to be someone going around attempting to discredit Tories by buying them fake followers on Twitter. Which is all a bit sci-fi. Oh, for the days of more simple scandals.

Mensch's twitter page.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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