Vijay Mukhi: Are Narendra Modi’s Twitter followers fake? And what about Shashi Tharoor’s?

24 Jul,2013

By Vijay Mukhi


The best job on the planet is being a columnist on Politics and Technology, because no one in this space  talks sense or hard facts and numbers. Breaking news everyday is about Narendra Modi’s Twitter followers being fake, but no one is offering any credible evidence on either side of the debate, fake or real. So, before I throw my hat in the ring and get egg all over me (which is all in days work for me) let me tell you that I believe in the maxim Trust but Verify so before you cast the first stone, please download all the data that I have gathered from Twitter from my website We are also comparing only Narendra Modi and Shashi Tharoor as the other politicians are pygmies on Twitter compared to these two giants.


Modi, today,  has 19,34,170 followers on Twitter compared to Tharoor who has  18,42,046,  a lead of just under a lakh. Modi and Tharoor share  447,920 followers in common which is around 25% of their followers , Modi and Kiran Bedi share 408,401 followers and Modi also shares 2,98,005 followers with Arvind Kejriwal. Thus, we can safely conclude that there are about 4 lakh people on Twitter who just like following politicians from India — why, we have no answer. This leaves Modi with a maximum of 15 lakh fake followers as fake followers would not share politicians from different groupings.


How do we define a fake follower? Simple answer, someone who does not tweet. Modi has 6,77,296 followers who have never ever tweeted. Now imagine, why would someone join Twitter and not tweet at all! This is very extremely damning and conclusive evidence, we need no judge or jury to convict that these have to be fake followers. Thus if 35% of Modi followers have to be fake, what more evidence do you need! But, do not open the bubbly to celebrate, Tharoor has only 5,23,843 followers who also have never ever tweeted , which make up 28% of his followers. Can we thus draw a line in sand that says that if up to 28% of your followers have never ever tweeted then it is okay but any percentage above that makes these followers a fake? A more charitable explanation is that there is a silent (in terms on not liking the sound of a keyboard) majority out there on Twitter who do not tweet at all, but simply read tweets. If you take a step further, 12% of Modi and Tharoor’s followers tweeted only once and 7% only tweeted twice. A simply addition tells us that over 46% of Tharoor’s followers and 54% of Modi’s followers do not like to tweet or cannot tweet for various reasons. We need to accept that not everyone likes putting pen to paper even though we have to write less than 140 characters.


The best evidence of popularity or influence on Twitter is how many people follow you. About 4,85,077 or 25% or a quarter of Mod’s followers have 0 people following them. Aha, this nails Modi finally and this is enough  proof that these followers are fake! The obvious answer is that if you do not tweet then obviously no one will follow you and for Tharoor the number is 2,61,883 or 14%. The percentage of the number of followers who have only 1 or 2 followers following their tweets, sort of remains the same. Thus like sending tweets , we have a whole community of users on Twitter who are so important that nobody follows what they do. Twitter Orphans can well be a new addition to the English language, what say?
The obvious conclusion is that about half your followers would be inert or inactive or to use the TV analogy, coach potatoes who would surf from politician to politician.

One sureshot way of finding out whether your followers are fake is to look at how many followers did you add every day of the year. During the month of July 2013, Modi added on a average around 5000 followers per month and Dr Tharoor about a 1000. For May and June, these numbers were also similar. The only conclusion we can draw here is that Modi’s team is very smart, had they added 50,000 followers on one day, they could be caught in the deserts of Rajasthan. But what if I paid an agency (millions on the web that do this for a small fee) to increase Modi’s followers count by a lakh on a certain day, the media would go ballistic and say that Modi was caught with his hand in the desert sand.


I agree we are getting nowhere. So let’s look at another metric. When did  your Twitter followers create their account on Twitter or an ageing analysis. A whopping 1,02,385 of Modi followers were born on Twitter in April 2013, 94,874 in June 2013 or better still 502, 918 of his followers are under 180 days old on Twitter or created in the year 2103. For Tharoor, this number for 2013 is only 171,459. For 2012, the equivalent numbers are 595,656 for Modi and for Tharoor 360,540. A non-convincing explanation is that India is the youngest country in the world population wise and therefore all of your followers must represent this trend of being young. More than half of Modi’s followers have joined Twitter nearly a million , in the last 18 months only ,maybe just for him. This is why Twitter should give Modi an award for bringing so many people to Twitter!


Where Tharoor leaves Modi biting the dust is when it when to the quality of followers, and that also by a factor of 2. We simply added up all the followers of people who follow Tharoor and the number was an astonishing 27,89,94,347 and for Modi it was half that at 10,87,44,125. We have not removed duplicate followers from this list. So theoretically when Tharoor tweets and if all his followers retweet his tweet around 27 crore people would see that tweet. Tharoor followers have tweeted over  52,26,34,885 times but Modi’s followers being newer and weaker are half that at 27,57,99,883. On a average, a Tharoor follower has 150 followers who tweets 282 times and a Modi follower would have only 56 followers and tweets much less at 143. Thus an average Tharoor follower would beat a Modi follower in a virtual fist fight as Tharoor has a long and khandhani history on Twitter.  Maybe and we have no evidence for saying this, but a Modi follower may have more pets (aka puppies) than a Tharoor follower. It a foregone conclusion that Tharoor’s followers are twice as strong as Modi’s followers and no guesses who would win a twitter slugfest, in spite of what conventional wisdom says that Modi’s followers are winning on Twitter.


OMG, read over 5000 characters ie 35 tweets (my editor decides column length in tweets and not characters)  and yet no conclusion on whether Modi has fake followers or not! So, let’s muddy the waters even more. Go to the Twitter page of a user vijaymukhi712 by typing This user bears my name and I have actually tweeted 86 times, a pretty active user one would have to admit, to a fake user under any yardstick. Every day my internet avatar ( not sure of the sex as you will soon see) quotes a love tweet so has his heart in the right place. But if you check further, say the 19th of every month, you will see the same love quote. This user is a creation of a computer program (which is why I cannot determine the sex)  which wakes up at 7 in the morning GMT and depending of the day of the month sends out a tweet. I did not have the time to create a database with 365 tweets. Is this a fake user or a non-human user, a word that will enter the human lexicon very soon. Twitter makes it very easy to create a user that needs no verification and we all tweet using some computer a program written by a programmer. Will there be a way to distinguish between a fake user from a machine-created one? May be and a big may be in my next life!


Finally, all fake things must come to an end and so we come to our real conclusion.


It is in the best (commercial ) interests of the social web to make it very easy to create fake followers as greater the number of Twitter users, the more money Twitter and the rest of its ilk charges for ads. It’s also is in the best interests of the social web that we have no way of determine a fake from a real user. It helps politicians as it make them more important in cyberspace than they really are. I seriously stopped getting women to date me when they realised that my Twitter followers was around 300. We must realise that a large majority of Twitter users will not tweet, they are readers nor writers. If politicians hired the right technology hackers, they will never ever get caught while massing millions of fake followers. Our Internet population will triple from 120 million today to at least 400 million in the next 1000 days thanks to 4G and this problem of fake followers or fake identities or fake tweets or fake anything will never ever be resolved. This emboldens all of us to say what we want about anyone or anything on Twitter and the social web as verification of any type is a miracle and we all know when the last miracle too place.


My last two bits: Modi’s followers are as genuine or as fake as Tharoor’s followers are. Take your pick by doing the obvious, by tweeting.


Post a Comment 

35 responses to “Vijay Mukhi: Are Narendra Modi’s Twitter followers fake? And what about Shashi Tharoor’s?”

  1. Hitesh says:

    Wonderful analysis.. i liked the article, and obviously this means that the data of social media should be taken with a pinch of salt..

  2. Thala says:

    How do we define a fake follower? Simple answer, someone who does not tweet. What kind of logic is this?????????? I never tweeted..but I am not fake…

  3. abtshetty says:

    Hai Bijay,

    good analysis, im following NAMO, Rahul, just to read what they are tweeting about. I never tweeted one because i’m interested in tweets.

    I appreciate your views, everyone has their own rights to give their openions.
    Are you really misleading/ some of your replies tells that your not sure about your logic/analogy/algorithm.

    Can you explain more about fake users/followers.

    Don’t conclude that followers are fake.

    If someone don’t tweet then it doesn’t means that account is fake.

  4. Rai says:

    Vijay, good analysis. Yes adding visuals will make it more interesting and easy reading.
    But in your analysis you have proved that Shashi Tharoor has a greater influence than NoMo. This is by no way acceptable to NoMo fans. So, though you have concluded that both are equal, which will also be not acceptable to NoMo fans, you will get a lot of criticism, which you have to painfully answer like this time.

  5. john2find says:

    Very good analysis of both Throor and NaMo.

  6. INDIAN says:

    I follow only Namo. So as per ur definition I am also a fake.

  7. nyk says:

    fact that he doesnt understand why so many people follow different politicians proves writer’s intellectual maturity and awareness about the medium he wishes to talk about.. total waste of time..

    • Vijay Mukhi says:

      nyk, the point of the article was that people were questioning the fakeness of Modi’s followers and not that of Tharoor’s. All that I said was that Modi and Tharoor shared a large number of followers and therefore these followers are not fake , I have not commented on why people follow different politicians on Twitter because this is not an area I understand.

  8. AP says:

    Good analysis. But do you have something against NaMo?

    • Vijay Mukhi says:

      AP, Thanks for the positive comment, I have met NaMo only once in Mumbai, came back very impressed by him. Met Tharoor, 0 times.

  9. Rajesh says:

    You also have to see that how old is shashi tharoors account and How old is modi’s account. There is one more possibility which you are ignoring is that on Pan india level Modi popularity increased in last one year. However many people actually joined twitter due to modi in last 2 months, For such people It will take time to get their followers. Frankly speaking this twitter army of modi will definitely help him to build momentum on ground if not on twitter in terms of followers.

  10. Vasishta says:

    This is called jobless journalism..

    • Vijay Mukhi says:

      Vasishta, I am not a journalist, i am a data scientist. I simply read the numbers ( tea leaves)

      • Vasishta says:

        Whats the point by publishing unauthenticated data

        • Vijay Mukhi says:

          I do not understand what you mean by unauthenticated data. Twitter allows anyone with some programming skills to get the same data as I have. Anyone can authenticate the data to cross check what I have done.

  11. DiscountedGyani says:

    pretty lame analysis … if this guys get paid for such research thn he’s the luckiest guy around… 🙂

    • Vijay Mukhi says:

      Dear DiscountedGyani, I would appreciate what you said if you explained where my analysis was lame. Where I agree with you is that I am the luckiest guy around.

      • vikram says:

        I am not Tech person no Twitter expert, I have an account follow only few person but as an audience. what does that mean to this analyses. Just question not challenging your work

  12. Khare Sachin says:

    किस देश से कितने अनुसरंणकर्ता हैं जरा यह भी बताइए ।।
    कुछ नया चिंतन मिलेगा..

    • Vijay Mukhi says:

      Khare Saab, it is impossible to figure out which country Twitter users come from so I will not even attempt to try.

  13. Guest says:

    Well boss either u don’t have an understanding of how twitter works or in ur attempt to malign one or other u have failed to properly analyze, I follow only NaMo I don’t follow Mr. Tharoor or Ms. Bedi so u count me as fake? WTH secondly i know quite a few people out there who joined twitter just to follow a particular celeb, NaMo/tharoor/Abhishek/Preity/Big B/SRK and list is long, these people find themselves not good at 140chars, hence they don’t tweet anything but read what their fav. celeb has to say about his/her respective filed so please don’t jump.

    • Vijay Mukhi says:

      Dear Guest, All that I said was that if Modi’s followers are a fake, so are Tharoor’s. I was in no sense maligning one or the another. I do not how to define a fake follower and yet trying to find someone who does. My point was that a vast majority of the people on Twitter do not tweet, this is not necessarily a good or a bad thing.

  14. Ajai says:

    Excellent analysis.Would have been better if some tables/graphs were used- since it is all about numbers.

    Now we will see the troll brigade of Modi start abusing the author of this article, question him,his ancestors, his pets …..

    • Vijay Mukhi says:

      Ajai, Thanks for the positive comment. You are right about me not using graphs in my columns, would get the point out better, I will try and use the links from my website in future. The irony of the situation is that even the Modi brigade does not understand that this is the first article in the press that actually puts facts into proving that Modi’s followers are not fake. If they do not understand that I am on their side, this time at least, then can we call them Modi’s followers or …. Nobody understood what the pets followers was all about. I honestly expected a response that would question me on the numbers I used and the conclusions drawn than generic statements that I have lost my mind, which I did in the last century.

  15. Vivek says:

    Too much confusion, pl share Same analysis for Obama then comment also

    • Vijay Mukhi says:

      Vivek, the only reason there is confusion is because we need to create a methodology to define a fake follower. Till we do so we will keep debating this issue till the cows come home.

      • Vivek says:

        Dear Analyst-1) I am quite disagree with this theory, I will give my example, I have made my T Account in 2009 where as I am using it quite now after 4 year, It does not mean my account was fake. 2) So you must take data of Internet user in India 3) What about Mr. Obama account details ?

        • Vijay Mukhi says:

          As per my so called theory, I have never ever said that your twitter account is fake. My analysis is with India, what has Obama gor to do with it.

        • john2find says:

          Sir you have missed Author’s line:

          “People might have an account that might have been inactive, but that does not mean they where created specifically to follow NaMo and never used back then.

          A normal user who so ever creates an account would generally tweet for some days rather than banishing the account the very next day.

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