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Wed Aug 1, 2012, 08:32 PM

Statistical Probability That Mitt Romney's New Twitter Followers Are Just Normal Users: 0%

Just in case you had any doubts...

Our test is based on the underlying assumption that the followers of Twitter accounts tend to display a some kind of general indegree distribution. Exploratory analysis revealed that this distribution varies depending on the size of the original account. We are able to detect probable bot involvement because this distribution would be quite difficult to mimic in a bot network, so presence of many bot followers skews this distribution.

Using TwitterCounter's lists of most followed users, we selected the twenty accounts closest in size to both Romney and Obama, with approximately the same number of followers; ten had slightly fewer followers, ten slightly more. For Romney the twenty accounts were selected from those listed within the Eastern Standard Time-zone. No such restriction was possible for Obama, since his is the 6th most followed account globally, with nearly 18 million followers.

We looked at the indegree distribution of the 150,000 most recent followers from each account in our sample, to see if Romney's dramatic follower spike was truly as suspect as it seemed. This allows us to see the proportion of followers that have very small indegree, and are likely to be bots. On Twitter, degree distributions for networks of a particular size tend to follow a fairly consistent pattern, although this distribution differs notably between very large networks, like Barack Obama's, and medium-size networks, like Mitt Romney's. By comparing the presidential candidates' distributions to the distributions of our set of other accounts of roughly the same size, we were able to see if either Romney's or Obama's new followers differed significantly from the typical distribution.

According to a random sample of 1000 followers from the candidates' accounts, 26.9% of Romney's 150,000 newest followers had fewer than 2 followers. For other accounts of similar size, only 9.6% of new followers had less than 2 followers themselves. The median number of followers for Romney's new followers was 5, whereas the median for the comparison group was 27. This represents a stark, and statistically significant difference. If you are a statistics nerd, like us, you might want to know that the p-value on this was 0.0000. For the rest of the world, this means that there is, essentially, a zero percent chance that the underlying characteristics of Romney's followers are actually the same as the comparison users.

Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/statistical-probability-that-mitt-romneys-new-twitter-followers-are-just-normal-users-0/260539/

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Reply Statistical Probability That Mitt Romney's New Twitter Followers Are Just Normal Users: 0% (Original post)
salvorhardin Aug 2012 OP
chowder66 Aug 2012 #1
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2012 #2
Amerigus Aug 2012 #3
dsc Aug 2012 #4
salvorhardin Aug 2012 #5
progressivebydesign Aug 2012 #6

Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 08:39 PM

1. Go Nerds! nt

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 08:41 PM

2. Actually been tempted

for purely selfish reasons... as a reporter I need that.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 11:24 PM

3. just silly...

anyone could see the followers were bad as they poured in - it was never in doubt, the spike was a red flag and the traffic was mostly spambots as reported right from the earliestr going.

This article is weird, therefore, trying to run some kind of freakonomics research on something that was never in question. It seems the media might be just trying to revive or prolong the story. What the public really needs to know is who bought the bots and why.

It might be connected to the fact that Twitter launched the Obama/Romney Twindex today, which will be following Twitter trends and rating the Twitterverse sentiment for each candidate.

Maybe some Romney supporter got wind and thought it would be based on followers, or that boosting his fake followiong would spur his real following. Either way they failed...

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 11:31 PM

4. but does that necessarily make them bots

assuming that romney would attract and older than normal crowd could it be that his new followers are new to twitter and thus have no followers.

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Response to dsc (Reply #4)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 12:35 AM

5. No, but.

No, but it's the total weight of the evidence -- they don't have the characteristics of human Twitter users, the sheer number of anomalous accounts, and the short time span in which they were acquired. It's pretty well certain that they're generated accounts.

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Response to dsc (Reply #4)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 12:42 AM

6. Anecdotally, the day this all became public, I spent an hour looking at his new followers...

the ones with no followers, were NOT grandmas and grandpas, they were "people" of a younger age, many had retweeted things in other languages, several were new followers with the same profile pic. There were a handful of the white bread churchy types, but most were paid followers and bots.

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