Follow the Green: Growth and Dynamics in Twitter Follower Markets

Gianluca Stringhini
Gang Wang
Manuel Egele
Christopher Kruegel
Giovanni Vigna
Haitao Zheng
Ben Y. Zhao

Proc. of the 13th ACM SIGCOMM Internet Measurement Conference (IMC)

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Paper Abstract

The users of microblogging services, such as Twitter, use the count of followers of an account as a measure of its reputation or influence. For those unwilling or unable to attract followers naturally, a growing industry of "Twitter follower markets" provides followers for sale. Some markets use fake accounts to boost the follower count of their customers, while others rely on a pyramid scheme to turn non-paying customers into followers for each other, and into followers for paying customers. In this paper, we present a detailed study of Twitter follower markets, report in detail on both the static and dynamic properties of customers of these markets, and develop and evaluate multiple techniques for detecting these activities. We show that our detection system is robust and reliable, and can detect a significant number of customers in the wild.