More than half of the Twitter followers of Albanian opposition Socialist leader Edi Rama are fake accounts, analysis has revealed.According to the Fake Follower Check application, 55 per cent of Rama’s 32,874 followers on Twitter are spam accounts, 34 per cent are inactive and only 11 per cent are considered as good.Since September 2011 Rama has increasingly used tweets and blogs to transmit his political agenda, criticize the government or otherwise respond to accusations.
His use of Twitter in particular has played an important part in popularizing the social network in Albania, that before was overshadowed by the rival Facebook.
Fake accounts are those thought to be created for the sole purpose of sending spam, while inactive accounts lack recent updates.
Although fake Twitter followers can be purchased on dozens of websites offering the service for as little as $0.01, they are more like to be the work of Internet spammers. The more popular a Twitter account is the more likely it is to have fake followers.
For example 35 per cent of the 19 million Twitter followers of US President Barack Obama are considered fakes, while 36 per cent are inactive and 29 per cent are good.
The communication director for the Socialist Party, Endri Fuga, told Balkan Insight the party had never bought fake followers on Twitter and questioned the accuracy of Fake Followers Application.
“In Albania Twitter is not the most popular social network, many have accounts that are not active, which may explain the high number of fakes if the [StatuPeople] application is reliable,” Fuga said.
Fuga pointed out that Microsoft founder Bill Gates and British Prime Minister David Cameron also have large numbers of fake and inactive followers according to StatusPeople.
“I don’t think Bill Gates and David Cameron are buying fake followers on Twitter, and I am sure that such methods have not been part of our work,” he added.
The only ruling party politician with a sizable presence on Twitter is Tirana’s mayor Lulzim Basha, who has several accounts. The largest one with 1,600 followers describes itself as an official account.
However, a spokesperson for the municipality, Erald Kapri, denied that Basha or his staff had set up any of the accounts, and the one described as the official page “was most likely set up by a fan”.
Use of networking sites for political purposes is a growing trend in Albania, where internet penetration and the use of social media has grown massively in the last two years.
According to the statistics website Social Bakers, there are more than a million Facebook users in Albania – nearly 30 per cent of the total population, representing nearly two-thirds of Albanians with access to the internet.
Nearly 67 per cent of Albanian internet users are between 18 and 34, an age group, according to studies, which is far from active when it comes to casting ballots.
Similar surveys also show that nearly one-third of young people in Albania prefer to get their information from the web, using social networking web sites like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter in preference to mainstream media.
A survey conducted by the Tirana-based Eunacal Institute in October 2010 said 30.4 per cent of young people aged 15 to 39 rely on social media as their main source of information on politics.