Since our first analysis and report, we at Barracuda Labs have continued to monitor this activity across multiple social networks. Twitter continues to be the largest offender (or victim) with its underground economy for buying and selling fake social accounts.
As part of this experiment, we once again began our investigation by searching on eBay, Fiverr and Google for vendors who sell Twitter followers. Then, we selected several of the vendors with varying price rates for purchasing followers, and spent about $100USD to make a few purchases.
After these followers were delivered to our controlled Twitter accounts, we used Twitter API to collect their information and conduct deeper statistical analysis.
Because the fake accounts are from multiple data sources, the resulting data characteristics are also different. For this purpose of presenting the results of this study, we selected one dealer who is most representative, sophisticated and interesting, and report the analytic results based on data collected from that dealer.
Similar to our previous study, we have organized the results into three groups: (1) Dealers (hackers or vendors who sell Twitter followers), (2) Abusers (Twitter users who bought or had fake followers), and (3) Fake Accounts (created by dealers for selling followings or tweets business).
Dealers (hackers or vendors who sell Twitter followers):
- 52 eBay sellers are found selling Twitter followers; 55 websites are found in the Google top 100 results when searching “buy twitter followers” (and 49 of those websites are new ones); astonishingly, 6400+ Twitter followers services are found on Fiverr.com.
- The average price of followers has dropped significantly: $11 per thousand followers (compared to $18 in August 2012).
- Some Dealers can control as many as millions of Twitter followers (see fastfollowerz.com and twittercluster.com package options).
- Some Dealers provide location-targeted Twitter followers, either Global or USA specific, and some provides monthly subscriptions.
- Some are extremely sophisticated, such as fastfollowerz.com, which provides extensive features, including 100% active followers, 5-year retention protection (no followers drop in 5 years), guarantee to pass StatusPeople detection, geo-target by country or city, target by keywords or profile information, monthly subscription, daily delivery, etc.
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