"Keep in mind that many of the dealers can make a lot of fake accounts on Twitter to make some impact on this political campaign, so they can control these fake accounts and post some positive messages and some negative messages," Ding says. "So they do certain things to influence the overall index in certain ways."
The Political Index is just an example of the larger problems Twitter faces if it can't keep up with the growth of fake accounts, Ding says.
"If anybody can buy followers easily, if many people are doing that, then the overall trust on [the] social platform is decreased gradually," he says. "Next time we see people who have followers, you don't think that's real."
Right now, Twitter appears to be stuck in a game of cat and mouse with its abusers. Ding credits the company's recent efforts, declaring that "Twitter is moving fast on this case now." At the same time, he acknowledges that those looking to cash in on the market for followers will become more difficult to catch, putting a thorn in Twitter's side as it aims to become a national resource for reliable information.
"We are also seeing there are some really high-quality fake accounts which have many tweets and many followers and many following," Ding says. "In that case, Twitter will have to be much more indexed and [use] many more metrics to identify them."
Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies, privacy and enterprise mobility for Network World. Follow him on Twitter @ntwrkwrldneagle and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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