A Saudi man has “bought” thousands of Twitter followers in a bid to expose what he said was a form of online deception practiced by prominent users in Saudi Arabia who claim to have a large number of followers.
Abdul Rahman al-Kharashi tweeted on July 27 that he was in a “moment of serious thinking about purchasing up to 500,000 followers as some social figures do.”
The number of Kharashi’s followers on Twitter since then jumped from 600 to 183,000.
Kharashi, identified by the Saudi-based al-Eqtisadiah newspaper as an investor in Riyadh’s stock market, accused some Saudi celebrities, including prominent religious figures, of purchasing followers on Twitter via certain marketing companies.
“I hope all the celebrities will clarify and declare that the numbers of their followers are not correct. Do you think any of them will brave up to admit this?” Kharashi said in another tweet.
“I do not accuse ‘everyone’ of buying (followers), but what I am doing proves that there are large numbers of fake followers for many celebrities,” he added in another.
Some companies inside the kingdom reportedly charge between $70 and $270 for adding up 10,000 new followers to a customer’s Twitter account.
According to a report by al-Eqtisadiah, about 21 percent of Saudi religious figure Ayed al-Qarni’s more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter were “unreal” and more than 30 percent others were “inactive.”
The report also said that 25 percent of prominent religious figure Muhammad al-Arifi’s 2.2 million Twitter followers are “unreal” and almost 50 percent others are “inactive.”
The report, if confirmed to be true, would likely deal a blow to the reputation and credibility of various religious leaders who use social media forums to propagate their religious doctrines and ideas.
Outside Saudi Arabia, allegations involving the “purchase” of Twitter followers were previously addressed against U.S. Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
Romney’s Twitter account raised speculations last month when it gained more than 140,000 followers in two days, against a normal daily growth rate of 3,000 to 4,000 followers.
CNN quoted Zach Green, who monitors political activity on social media websites, as saying that someone might have added fake followers to Romney’s account in order to embarrass his campaign.