How Many of Dawkins’ Twitter Followers are Fake?

The NYT recently uncovered that there are up to 50 million fake followers on Twitter.  And it turns out that celebrities and other public figures can easily buy tens of thousands of fake followers.  As Slate explains:

It’s little surprise, then, to learn that many of the site’s users have exaggerated their own prominence. Actors, models, businesspeople, athletes, adult entertainers, and others have all bought fake followers from a shadowy company known as Devumi, as the New York Times exhaustively demonstrated in a recent story. Though much of the Times’ reporting is new, we’ve long known that users artificially inflate their virtual fame. More surprising, however, are the ways those users respond to being called out.

In fact, the NYT set up a new Twitter account and quickly secured 25,000 followers by paying Devumi a mere $225.

This story caught my eye because it would explain something unusual about Richard Dawkins’ twitter account that I noticed a month or so ago.  I don’t check in on Dawkins much these days because he has largely fallen off the radar.  Yet when I checked his account not too long ago, I noticed he had over 2.5 million followers.  Huh?  During the days when his tweets were constantly generating news stories, and he was still quite popular, Dawkins had about 1 million followers.  So during the couple of years since his stroke, when he tweets far less frequently and doesn’t seem to generate hardly any attention from the wider media, he picked up another 1.5 million followers?

I suppose anything is possible.  But then again, I notice that despite 2.5 million followers, a Dawkins’ tweet generates an average of 500 rewteets and 1000 likes.  So in other words, only about 0.04% of Dawkins followers can be bothered to actually retweet or like something he posts.

Then there was this recent tweet:

 

So Dawkins explicitly asks his 2.6 million followers to go sign a petition.  Well, if you click on the link, you’ll find this petition has 12,302 signatures.  Even if you make the unrealistic, generous assumption that each and every signature came from one of Dawkins’ followers, that’s only 0.5% of his followers.

As I see it, there are two plausible explanations.  Either over 99% of Dawkins’ followers don’t get excited about the things he gets excited about.  Or, a lot of those followers are fake.

And of course, the two explanations are not mutually exclusive.

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3 Responses to How Many of Dawkins’ Twitter Followers are Fake?

  1. Dhay says:

    > Even if you make the unrealistic, generous assumption that each and every signature came from one of [Richard] Dawkins’ followers …

    That’s a very unrealistic, very generous assumption: the Hamza bin Walayat case has twice been publicised in the widely read British Guardian newspaper, once in the Independent (and almost certainly in it’s cut down “i” version also) and on the Humanists UK FaceBook page and website — it’s they who are promoting and hosting the online petition.

    It’s a no-brainer for a humanist to choose to want to sign the Humanists UK petition, so if there’s that few signatures they’ve probably not got a big membership.

    *

    There’s 120 academic philosophers have signed a joint letter in protest to point out that, contra the ignorant Home Office official, Plato was not a “humanist” philosopher. Dawkins put it nicely in a previous Tweet of his:

    As Honorary Vice President of the British Humanist Association and recipient of the American Humanist Association’s Humanist of the Year Award, it would never for a single instant occur to me to honour Plato as a humanist.

    http://www.twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/953950012844773377

    It wouldn’t occur to me either. If you’ve actually read Plato’s “The Republic” — that’s the one with the Cave metaphor which Peter Boghossian and his Street Epistemologists seem to so badly misunderstand and which, as the Atheos App’s theme make it a running joke …

    … If you’ve actually read Plato’s “The Republic” you’ll have realised it’s anti-democratic elitist authoritarian, it’s anti- social movement — indeed, it promotes a caste system –, it’s anti-science — intuiting “Platonic Ideas/Forms”, I ask you! — and it’s governed by older men who have spent decades going through a strict training programme which might have flexibility of mind as its result, but I reckon it’s more probably going to lead to group-think.

    Plato seems very antipathetic towards the values I would expect a humanist to hold.

    Mine own, too; and I am antipathetic towards Plato.

    *

    Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, despite it being an obvious cock-up on the part of the Home Office and an obvious human interest story, the little man against stupid bureaucracy, the newspapers usually associated with the Tories and the Right seem to have omitted the story entirely.

  2. Dhay says:

    Nice detecting, Michael.

    Richard Dawkins isn’t getting any mail, any at all, to his RDF website. The last was all but fifteen months ago, with just a trickle before that.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/mailbox/

  3. TFBW says:

    Dhay said:

    … If you’ve actually read Plato’s “The Republic” you’ll have realised it’s anti-democratic elitist authoritarian …

    Which reminds me of when Dawkins disapproved of the very principle of holding a referendum with regards to Brexit, entrusting, as it does, the “very, very complicated political and economic decision” to the inexpert hoi polloi.

    So if Plato is not humanist, what does that make Dawkins? Aren’t they both more or less advocating a form of technocracy, where the enlightened elites make the important political decisions?

    Oh, and Twitter keeps purging its real users for “hate speech” and other such infractions, so expect the proportion of bots to rise (if there’s still statistically significant room for that to happen).

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