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Inside the Real Economy Behind Fake Twitter Followers 75

colinneagle writes "People continue to pay money for Twitter followers, and, naturally, a deep network of developers and merchants has arisen to feed the market. A Barracuda Labs study found that the average dealer has the capacity to control as many as 150,000 followers at a time, sometimes more. Those who can control 20,000 fake accounts and can attract sales of $20 or more — the going rate is 1,000 followers for a minimum of $18 — stand to earn roughly $800 per day, according to Barracuda Labs. Keep in mind that very little of this work is manual; the dealers could easily control a system of botnets and set up a few software tools to automate much of the process. Using Twitter's API, developers can design programs that collect all the information of a given group of Twitter users, such as, for example, the 800,000 users following Mitt Romney's account. These programs don't necessarily hijack these accounts — they copy the images and text from their profiles and tweets. This pool of information can then be automatically ported into accounts based on an algorithm that automates the registration process on a massive scale."

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