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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 26 November, 2014

US presidential candidate in scandal over ‘fake Twitter followers’

Republican Newt Gingrich has denied allegations that he artificially inflated his online following using more than a million dummy accounts.

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich
Image: Patrick Semansky/AP/Press Association Images

WOULD-BE US PRESIDENTIAL candidate Newt Gingrich has been hit by allegations that over a million members of his vast Twitter following are fakes.

Gingrich, who is seeking the Republican party’s nomination for the 2012 presidential elections, has pointed to his 1.3million followers as evidence of his popular appeal. He told the Marietta Journal: “I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined.”

However, a former staffer on his campaign told Gawker that Gingrich employs agencies to generate a dummy following, and as much as 80 per cent – or more than a million followers – are fake. The staffer said: “Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them.

If you simply scroll through his list of followers you’ll see that most of them have odd usernames and no profile photos, which has to do with the fact that they were mass generated. Pathetic, isn’t it?

Following the allegations, search company PeekYou conducted an analysis of Gingrich’s following. They found that only eight per cent of his followers were identified as individual “consumers” or “voters”, while 92 per cent were businesses, anonymous or spam accounts. The company’s founder Michael Hussey said: “Newt Gingrich’s [consumer ratio] was the lowest we had ever seen.”

He added: “Newt’s follower count is really closer to 106,055.”

Gingrich’s campaign has denied the allegations. A spokesman said in a statement: “At no time has the campaign or Gingrich Communications employed an outside group to inflate the number of followers of @newtgingrich.”

Newt Gingrich shot to fame during the 1990s as part of the dramatic Republican success in the 1994 mid-term elections that put the party in control of Congress under Democratic president Bill Clinton. He led the Republican investigation of Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but was later revealed to have been having an affair with congressional staffer Callista Bisek, who he later married, at the time.

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