Justin Bieber is widely noted for having the most followers of any other Twitter account -- but it turns out the 19-year-old's numbers may be packed by non-Beliebers. According to social media experts, Bieber doesn't actually have the 37.3 million followers his account shows, but rather, a scant 19 million, give or take a few questionable accounts. What's going on? Biebs is being followed by those same spambots that have probably show up in your feed at some point.
The Daily Mail reports that the analytics pros at Socialbakers have done the numbers -- and nearly half of his followers (almost 18 million) are fake accounts. Which seems like a lot, but isn't that surprising when considering the sheer volume of spambots on the social media network.
Computer-generated accounts, which boost the number of followers and amount of attention that real accounts get, as well as increasing pageviews for websites, are a big buisness, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars each year. As of last week, the New York Times reported that there were at least 20 million fake acconts (though if Bieber has almost 18 million, it's likely there are more). There are so many fake accounts out there, developers have even created apps and websites to determine which are phony and which are just sketchy real people.
These bots are mostly harmless, though they can infect your computer with viruses and spyware. The easiest way to avoid them? Just don't click on links that aren't clearly marked from people you don't know, and never trust links sent to you through direct messag (no, there isn't really a funny photo of you on the internet).
However, Bieber's spam problem seems to be worse than other celebs -- Lady Gaga, who technically has more real followers than Biebs, Socialbakers reports, has relatively few spam followers, suggesting that Bieber's social media people are gaming the system and buying him followers for publicity.