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We knew that fake Twitter profiles have been breathing oxygen in struggle rapper’s lungs for years but now a new study has confirmed it.

According to Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, a couple of Italian researchers, there were an estimated 20 million fake Twitter accounts up for sale this year with prices starting as low as $40 for 1,000 followers.

Via NBC:

Twitter does try to prevent bogus accounts by enforcing a strict follower-to-following ratio, and by putting a 1,000-person cap on the number of people that any one account can follow in a single day. Jason Ding, a research scientist at Barracuda Labs, told NBC News that the number of Twitter accounts that were fake was “at least 10 percent, maybe more.” Twitter, according to The Wall Street Journal, claimed in its Securities and Exchange Commission report that only 5 percent of its accounts were fake.

“The more you pay, the better the accounts are, and the longer they last,” De Micheli told NBC News. “There is a huge gap between the quality of fake Twitter followers.”

Prices can reach $40 for 1,000 top-level fake accounts complete with photos, bios and the ability to tweet, said De Micheli. Those accounts are also less prone to disappear because Twitter isn’t as likely to recognize them as fakes, and because their creators are less likely to make them unfollow people. (Unfollowing people frees up the fake accounts to follow new customers.)

When Twitter made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, the social media giant revealed it had 232 million active users. Even if you’re terrible at math, you can still calculate that there’s a smorgasbord of phony profiles.

Would you pay for Twitter followers even if it meant that no one was talking to you back? At least the living, breathing users keep us thoroughly entertained.

Photo: Deviant Art