Elon Musk has millions of Twitter followers, but most appear to be fake, study finds

Elon Musk

Elon Musk has millions of followers on X but most of them appear to be fake, data has revealed.

Musk rebranded Twitter to “X” last month, a chaotic move that saw him change the iconic verb “retweet” to “repost”, following his acquisition of the platform in 2022. Since then, the value of the site has reportedly dropped by two thirds

Despite Musk’s apparent popularity on the site – he boasts more than 153 million followers – data reviewed by Mashable, and collected by a third-party researcher, shows that the majority of them are inactive. 

In recent weeks, Travis Brown, a Berlin-based developer of software for tracking social media compiled basic account information on all Musk’s supposed followers.

Data shared by Brown shows that, at the time the information was collected, of the 153,209,283 accounts following Musk, around 42 per cent (more than 65.3 million users), have zero followers of their own. 

Additionally, more than 73 per cent (nearly 112 million) of these followers have less than 10 following their own accounts. 

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More than 62.5 million of Musk’s followers have never tweeted.

The researcher also claimed that more than 100 million of Musk followers have less than 10 tweets posted to their account.

Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter on October 27, 2022, with Brown finding that out of all of his followers, more than 25 per cent (38.9 million) were created on or after that date, with each of them, on average, having a total of just one follower.

Thirty-eight million of them display attributes associated with fake or bot-controlled accounts, such as default profile images given to newly registered accounts by X. Slightly less than 50 million have handle names that feature four or more numbers, a trait also associated with fake or bot accounts. 

Brown said that the data could signal fake or inactive accounts, or “lurkers” – accounts made to exclusively consume content and not engage – with the social media tracker concluding that it’s likely to be a combination of all three. 

Followers subscribing to Musk’s X Premium, formerly called Twitter Blue – an $8 per month subscription service which focuses on features such as a verification badge and monetisation eligibility – is surprisingly low, with only around 453,000 Musk followers (about 0.3 per cent) having done so. 

In his continued overhaul of the platform, Musk has also announced the decision to do away with the block button, in a move that could see marginalised people harmed the most. 

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