20 January 2014

Graham Spiers's Lovely (fake) Ladies

by Chris Graham | Contributor

I have perceptive friends. They often inform me of things I didn’t even know existed. One such thing is that people actually buy Twitter followers. Now, I can appreciate that most people reading this will think I’ve gone mental but yes, it is actually a thing. 

So, when I received an email from a good friend on Friday morning detailing this phenomenon, I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued by my friend’s assertion that Graham Spiers’s account on Twitter had several signs of such activity. Then, totally unsolicited, I received a DM from @christtocs on Twitter suggesting exactly the same thing.

So I started to investigate and it didn’t take long before I was sitting, incredulous, looking at Spiers’ follower list. Either there are a lot of people in Russia who share Graham’s ‘feeling’ about Rangers being a ‘new club’ and he’s been moonlighting on some American daytime TV shows, or he has an inexplicable eclectic list of followers. He’s even followed by punctuation marks in some cases! Perhaps ones that have escaped from his articles? Remarkable. 

My friend sent me this blog which explains how it all works and how to spot it. I won’t go into specific details here because you can read it on the link (or the hundreds of similar articles a Google search will turn up) but essentially someone desperately looking to boost either their ego, their veneer of importance, or both, pays to have random, specially created accounts follow them at regular intervals to boost their follower count. It isn’t expensive – some services can get you tens-of-thousands of followers in short order for less than £50, good value for someone trying to make a big impression online, or someone who’s completely desperate. 

These accounts are essentially inactive but have profile pictures, names, sometimes a tweet or two and can often look at a cursory glance like real people. Until, that is, you look at them properly, and see that, well, they’re not real people. 

This has happened before with journalists in the US as reported by Deadspin as well as with the former head of Sky TV’s social media department. Since Deadspin linked to a rather amusing video in their article, we decided to make one of our own to illustrate the point. Enjoy. 


You’ll notice that Spiers has a very linear rise in followers. According to some experts in this type of social media forgery his is a telltale sign of this type of activity, although in this case there is almost certainly another explanation, right?

Graham is big in Russia. He has lots of Russian followers, with no tweets, who hardly follow anyone else – usually five or six other people to be precise. Then we have the ‘14’ Club. They all have unlikely names, zero or one tweet, follow fourteen people and are followed by nobody or one person. Then we have those people so mysterious that they only use punctuation marks to identify themselves. He has hundreds (most likely thousands) of these followers if the sample from the most recent additions to his follower list is consistent throughout. Don’t believe me? Check for yourself.

Now, I’ve no idea why Graham would contemplate such a thing? Would such a scam actually impress gullible newspaper editors? Would they fall for it? Magnus Llewellin, the Herald editor, would be switched onto something so obvious surely? Does BBC Scotland allow him his regular, ill-informed, petulant, “Rangers are deid!” appearances on Sportsound Extra because they think his social media reach is far higher than it actually is? Surely not.

Spiers has by far the most followers of any Scottish sports journalist. When I say “by far” I mean around 25k more than his closest challenger. And he also has a considerably more “fake” followers than other prominent counterparts. Just to toss out an example here: STV’s Peter Adam Smith–who as we all know has worked extensively covering Rangers the past couple years, is on our televisions quite often, and is a frequent tweeter–is estimated to be carrying a fake follower load of around 4 percent by Status People’s Faker Scores tool. Twitter Audit, which randomly samples 5000 followers for its calculations, places the number just shy of 1000 based on their own metrics.

Spiers on the other hand has a 22 percent marker on Status People’s fake count and is estimated to be carrying nearly 19,000 fake followers by Twitter Audit, around 35 percent of his total following.

So, perhaps there is another explanation? Perhaps these ethereal Russians and unlikely sounding Americans tune in to BBC Scotland podcasts regularly to hear his wisdom? Perhaps they wait with bated breath, sipping vodka or baking cookies for their kids, for Graham to regale them with his knowledge of corporate law and insolvency events? Perhaps they buy the Herald to read puff pieces with Ian Hart on his admiration for Brian Stockbridge? But I doubt it, since they don’t exist.

You’ll note from the linked articles that those who have previously been caught doing this tend to deny it or blame a ‘team’ running their accounts. You’ll also probably know that Graham has previous for denying things that he’s done on Twitter to a national TV audience. I’m not aware that he has a ‘team’ to blame. I doubt even he would consider Rangers to be responsible in this case. So, to save him the trouble of having to issue another ridiculous denial, I’m certainly not saying without question that Graham Spiers buys Twitter followers, but...

18 comments:

  1. Charlotte Fakes has got nothing Graham Fakes.

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  2. your a nobody who follows a dead club and pretends it has 140 yrs of history instead of 2 years and 1 trophy

    get a life pal and get out of your mothers basement

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  3. lukers..?....FIFA/UEFA/SFA/SPFL/ASA all say different,but why let facts get in the way of your fabrication.

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    1. Show me just one instance ANYWHERE that UEFA say "I can't believe we're not Rangers" are still RFC? Just one, go on go on go on go on go on......Stop just repeating thats a FACT, prove it. Show me where UEFA say that your still the same......

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    2. Oh, and BTW, you say you bought your history......may I ask, from whom? Licence transferred in full??? Transfered from what or whom?

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    3. This issue was put to bed, as far as Scots law is concerned, in September 2012 by Lord Justice Smith. You lost. Now run along.

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    4. 27…professional football clubs are often regarded as having a special status. In some respects that may be the correct view; but it should nevertheless not be overlooked that a modern professional football club is not a “club”, in the sense of an unincorporated association of members who join together in pursuit of a common purpose, but a commercial enterprise whose function is to generate profits for its shareholders.

      Judge Colin Bishop of the UTTT has a different opinion.
      Anyone who isn't taken in by blatant propaganda knows this to be true.

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    5. Your old club is dead son face it you lumpot dead means dead, deceased, finito,

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    6. What is your evidence for that other than hearsay? Because all of the legal authorities seem to have a different opinion. I don't know what drug you are on but it must be powerful shit.

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  4. Spiers isn't even capable of research, a pre-requisite for a journalist, I would've thought. I'm surprised people would find it anything other than consistent with his character, to try and fake a shortcut to popularity.

    He's the latest self-publicist to emerge in this age of new media, who can't be celebrated for his writing and investigative talent, so he resorts to fiction, and builds a Walter Mitty world around himself.

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  5. Spiers isn't even capable of research, a pre-requisite for a journalist, I would've thought. I'm surprised people would find it anything other than consistent with his character, to try and fake a shortcut to popularity.

    He's the latest self-publicist to emerge in this age of new media, who can't be celebrated for his writing and investigative talent, so he resorts to fiction, and builds a Walter Mitty world around himself.

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  6. Lukers if we are nobodies who follow a club only 2 years old. What does that make you following and commenting on a blog about a 2 year old club you dont even support?

    That's even funnier than speirs fake Twitter followers

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  7. To help answer the question by Ricky Slaven RE UEFA.. here is a link to UEFA's coefficient list http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/uefarankings/club/ you will see Rangers at 89. takes 5 years into consideration. 5 !!!!! how can a 2 year old club be ranked so high? FANNY !!!

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  8. bazbowski, and at number 108 you will see Unirea Urziceni (remember them lol?) who are also deid.
    UEFA keep the coefficients of all clubs deid or not to calculate a countries overall coefficient

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  9. Interesting blog, but I rather think it is you that has been misled here. I am an industry professional (IT/Web technology) and can perhaps shed some light...

    The phenomenon of fake russian twitter followers has affected a lot of accounts recently. Many journalists in various fields have been surprised to find that they have a large following from the East. What is actually happening is the following:
    1) Russian hacker creates swarm of fakes accounts - adding photos/names from DB.
    2) Hacker then makes each fake follow a few fairly active accounts so it receives traffic (following journos is a good bet).
    3) Fake then accumulates statistics - begins to look less fake to scanning software (see 6,7 below)
    4) Hacker then sells fakes to commercial tweeters who tweet for cash.
    5) Commercial tweeter charges higher prices based on more followers.
    6) Customer checks commercial tweeters followers using fake-scanner.
    7) Because of previous activity (see 4 above), fakes pass scanner and customer pays extra.

    It's a bit complicated but it is what is really happening.

    You might wonder if Spiers is one of these commercial tweeters (who really do buy followers). I don't believe he is for the simple reason that I've followed him for a while and have never seen a commercial tweet from him. So he has no incentive to buy followers.

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    1. Just a footnote: @ednewgubu (one of Graham's "Lovely Ladies") also follows: Philip Schofield, Lee McCulloch, Nacho Novo, Keith Lemon, Adam Matthews and Glasgow City Council.

      My guess is that a Russian hacker has sub-contracted the fake generation to some geek in Castlemilk that he recruited on World of Warcraft...

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  10. HAWHAWHAWHAW, transparency, honesty and integrity... Aye right Spiersy. No even the tims believe that, though they desperately pretend they do :-)))))

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Keep it civil, lads.