Audit: Millions of Trump's Twitter followers are fake

Between President Donald Trump's official and personal Twitter accounts he has tens of millions of followers. But a new audit finds a lot of the accounts seem to be bots with no real people behind them. That report has some critics accusing the president of buying followers. The president isn't the only high-profile account with questionable followers.     

"The practice of buying followers has existed as long as Twitter has existed," said Chris Dessi, the founder of Silverback Social. He has forged a career out of social media and the internet and said he recognizes follower buying as common practice.

"It is not unusual," he said. "It is not unusual for people in the public eye, for actors, actresses, comedians."

It is unusual or at least unprecedented in Twitter's admittedly short history for the sitting president of the United States to buy followers while in office.

Only Trump and perhaps some collection of his advisors know for certain if this president bought any of his 31 million followers. But after a recent stretch in which the president or someone helping to manage his profile blocked some users, an audit of @realdonaldtrump shows just about half of those 31 million accounts are fake.

"It's kind of the doping of the Twitter universe if you will," Dessi said.

By comparison, 79 percent of Barack Obama's nearly 90 million Twitter followers, 93 percent of the vice president's nearly 2 million followers, and 61 percent of Hillary Clinton 15.7 million followers are real.

Almost 70 percent of pop star Katy Perry's 99 million twitter followers are fake.

These fakes, or bots, often do a poor job of blending in. Few would mistake trump follower "John John" for a real person. But that doesn't mean the account holder paid for John John's follow. Bots exist and follow accounts for all kinds of reasons.

"But what you'll be able to track are the massive jumps that happen expeditiously, meaning within hours," Dessi said.

For those looking to more accurately estimate an account's influence, Dessi recommended ignoring its number of followers and instead focusing on retweets and likes.

"That's really the tell-all of who the real followers are," he said.