Elon Musk did not tweet Imran Khan has the most fake followers on Twitter
The screenshot has been edited, Musk did not tweet about Imran Khan
Claim: A screenshot circulating online shows a tweet from Elon Musk stating that Imran Khan has the largest number of fake followers on Twitter. The screenshot also shows a fake follower audit claiming that Imran Khan has 60.8% fake followers.
Fact: The screenshot is false, Musk did not tweet any such claim.
A screenshot of a tweet dated 13 December has been widely circulating across social media platforms in Pakistan. The screenshot shows a tweet by Twitter CEO Elon Musk stating, “I am confirming that Pakistan’s veteran cricketer Imran Khan has the largest number of fake followers on Twitter.”
The tweet is accompanied by a fake followers audit of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Twitter account from an audience research tool called SparkToro. The audit shows that Imran Khan has 60.8% fake followers. However, this is not an official Twitter result and cannot be considered conclusive.
Fact or Fiction?
The Twitter screenshot is dated 13 December. Soch Fact Check conducted a manual search of Elon Musk’s account to find the tweet, but no such tweet was available. We also conducted an advanced Twitter search using the term “Imran Khan” and limiting searches from Elon Musk’s Twitter account. The search showed that Elon Musk has never posted any tweets about Imran Khan.
In order to figure out where the follower audit attached in the tweet was conducted, we also surfed through multiple Twitter audit tools. We were able to find that the tool SparkToro was used to generate the audit shared in the screenshot. We conducted a follower audit of Imran Khan’s Twitter account using SparkToro and found that it showed 55.6% fake followers; however, the numbers change on a daily basis. An audit conducted a day prior showed a number close to 62%.
We also conducted a follower audit using the tool Follower Audit. The difference in analysis between the two tools was massive. Follower Audit showed that Imran Khan had 2.68% fake followers and 0.24% inactive followers.
The explanation perhaps lies in the operationalization of fake followers. SparkToro defines fake followers as “accounts that are unreachable and will not see the account’s tweets (either because they’re spam, bots, propaganda, etc. or because they’re no longer active on Twitter).” The methodology of the two tools also differs. SparkToro analyzes a random sample of 2000 accounts from a user’s most recent 100,000 followers. This creates two issues. Firstly, a sample of 2000 followers from 18.5 million does not accurately represent all followers of an account. Secondly, it only takes the most recent followers into account, which may skew results.
Follower Audit, on the other hand, uses the following parameters to determine the number of fake followers.
“Disclaimer: We calculate fake and inactive followers of any Twitter account based on certain parameters. The accounts mentioned in the fake followers list may or may not necessarily be fake followers.”
Thus, the results in the follower audit in the screenshot are not official results provided by Twitter and can not be verified. They only provide an estimate, which largely differs from another audience research tool.
Elon Musk did not tweet confirming or denying the SparkToro results. No credible media news channel has reported on any such tweet by Elon Musk, which would have undoubtedly caused waves in reporting had it been true.
Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the 30-day period since 21 November to 21 December using the following search terms:
- “Imran Khan Elon Musk”
- “Imran Khan fake followers”
- “ایلون مسک عمران خان”
The first search turned up 24,744 interactions across 90 posts on Facebook. However, not all posts were about Elon Musk’s fake tweet, yet they provide an idea about the prevalence of posts often putting Musk and Khan side by side even though they have never had any public interaction. The second search term turned up 3,407 interactions across 71 posts while the third turned up 1,479 interactions across 125 posts. The search included links to a Youtube video by Moazzam Fakhar who claims that the SparkToro follower audit is done by Twitter. The video has been shared here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. The SparkToro audit has been shared here,here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
An organic Facebook search turned up many more posts of Elon Musk’s tweet that did not appear on CrowdTangle. We used the search term “I am confirming that Pakistan’s veteran cricketer Imran Khan has the largest number of fake followers on Twitter.” Musk’s fake tweet was shared on Facebook here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Conclusion: Elon Musk did not tweet that Imran Khan has the largest fake following on Twitter. The SparkToro analysis attached in the screenshot cannot be used as conclusive evidence of Imran Khan’s fake Twitter following.