Twitter's 'suggested follows' draw criticism

Twitter - ethics
Twitter - ethics

Twitter could have laid itself open for accusations of bias - with the site suggesting celebrity and company Twitter feeds that new members should follow.

With the numbers of users for the service exploding in the early part of this year, celebrities such as Stephen Fry have seen an astonishing growth in their followers.

However, Bobbie Johnson of The Guardian discovered that the GuardianTech Twitter feed had been listed by Twitter after investigating a complaint by another Twitter user about the speed of the feed's growth.

Fake followers

The criticism - by a user called Brooks Bayne - suggested that The Guardian had been creating fake followers to boost its popularity, adding somewhat amusingly: "I don't know who @guardiantech is, or if they have the resources to be behind this, but it's worth noting"

This triggered a response from Twitter Chief Executive Ev Williams who said: "Each of these accounts is listed in our Suggested Users list, which is now the last page of our sign-up process. The followers aren't fake, they're just new users -- which is why they don't have updates or profile icons.

"The reason we created this feature is because lots of people sign up to Twitter but aren't following anyone, so we're trying to help get them started. This is a v 1.0 of this functionality, and we hope to make it a lot better. But I don't believe there's anything nefarious going on."


Apart from (justifiably) taking umbrage at the critic not bothering to find out who or what the GuardianTech feed was, Bobbie Johnson comments on the Guardian Tech blog: 'So, to clear things up: the Guardian hasn't created lots of fake Twitter followers in order to try and win some tedious popularity contest.

'And if Brooks Bayne had bothered to ask, he'd have realised that his accusation had no foundation.'

The problem with suggesting Twitterers is that it promotes some companies and individuals above others - which seems to go against the ethos of Twitter.


"It just seems a bit unfair that, say, one tech news feed is promoted above others," T3 News Editor and avid Tweeter Kat Hannaford told TechRadar.

"If certain papers are promoted and others aren't then it does open up Twitter for accusations of bias."

With Twitter openly discussing the idea of charging companies for feeds , it also opens up the possibility that paying customers will be suggested to new Twitter subscribers.

And as the follower rich get richer, the poor may well find themselves in a Twitter class system that grows ever more disparate.

You can help turn TechRadar into a 'middle-class' tweeter by following us @techradar

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.