Updated: Gingrich Denies 80% of His Twitter Followers Were Bought

Turns out his online grassroots might be astroturf

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The last straw for what once was the staff of Newt Gingrich presidential campaign was the luxury cruise he took just weeks after announcing his candidacy. But the vacation incident was indicative of a bigger problem--Gingrich's staff wanted to run a traditional campaign with lots of hand-shaking in early voting states, while Newt himself wanted to do all that stuff online. The staff quit and Gingrich soldiers on, touting the appeal of his ideas as evidenced by his massive Twitter constituency--1,325,842 follwers. But Gawker's John Cook reports that only about 10 percent of those followers are living, breathing humans.

A former Gingrich staffer emailed Cook to explain that the Gingrich campaign had hired firms to beef up his Twitter presence. The anonymous staffer explains:
About 80 percent of those accounts are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various "follow agencies," another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves ... and the remaining 10 percent may, in fact, be real, sentient people who happen to like Newt Gingrich. If you simply scroll through his list of followers you'll see that most of them have odd usernames and no profile photos, which has to do with the fact that they were mass generated. 
Update: Christian Heinze notes that Gingrich denies the allegation that most of his Twitter followers are phony. His spokesman tweets, "@Gawker Gaffes. Hoodwinks readers. Insults 1.3 million .@newtgingrich .@twitter followers. Report is #rude #unfounded & #erroneous." And Ben Smith speculates that Gingrich's massive following is thanks to getting picked for Twitter's "Suggested User List." Smith writes, that Gingrich's frequent tweeting helped him get on the list, "but as Anil Dash noted, the 'million followers' that came with the SUL were pretty much a fiction--most of them weren't really interested--and Gingrich's claim that they reflected grassroots popularity is also doubtful."
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