Daniel Friedman
3 minute read
2 Jan 2020
9:09 am

Zille discovers almost half her Twitter followers are ‘fake bot accounts’

Daniel Friedman

The DA federal council chairperson appears to believe the many fake followers are her political opponents attempting to 'destroy' her online, and is trying to get rid of them.

Helen Zille says she's been inundated with calls. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Following a backlash to Democratic Alliance (DA) federal council chairperson Helen Zille’s sharing of a cartoon by Jeremy ‘Jerm’ Nell, Zille suggested she believed that what both she and the cartoonist considered the “manufactured outrage” to the tweet may be linked to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

“A colleague told me that the EFF runs a botnet of around 11,000 fake accounts. If that is true, they would rival Bell Pottinger and it would explain all the orchestrated outrage based on deliberately misinterpreted tweets. Over and out,” she said.

This led to a Twitter user running the programme Twitter Audit over Zille’s own followers, which determined that of Zille’s 1.4 million Twitter followers, over 600,000 followers are fake.

Zille herself appeared surprised at this revelation and has since said that she was trying to find out how to get rid of the hundreds of thousands of fake followers.

“Can anyone tell me how I get to block or delete the 600,000-plus fake bot accounts following me? And is it possible to find out who created them?” she tweeted.

Then shortly afterwards, she sent another tweet: “Thanks to my followers who have explained how I can subscribe to a service to wipe fake accounts off my TL (Twitter timeline). It is expensive but worth it. Our country cannot afford these deliberate digital manipulators seeking to manufacture outrage for nefarious purposes.”

This suggests that Zille believes that her fake followers have been deliberately placed there by her political opponents to follow her as part of a bid to discredit her.

In another tweet, she took this theory forward.

READ MORE: Zille blames cartoon outrage on EFF ‘fake accounts’ after twar with Mpofu

“Absolutely fascinating. Almost half my 1.4 million followers are bots, which probably accounts for most of the anonymous ones run by political opponents. I’m flattered. They must think I am very influential to put this much effort into trying to destroy me online. They won’t succeed,” she tweeted.

However, others, including former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee, believe the fake accounts following Zille have been created by her supporters, not her detractors.

Zille has said in the past that she believed the outrage surrounding her controversial “colonialism” tweets was also orchestrated, telling Newzroom Afrika presenter Onkgopotse ‘JJ’ Tabane that she believed the backlash was driven by a network of fake accounts and bots.

Zille said she spent R50,000 of her “own money” to have the social media storm she found herself in “analysed” and it was determined that the “vast majority” of the outrage was faked.

The Citizen has sent questions to Zille, which she has answered in detail in an interview which can be read here.


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