Transphobic group LGB Alliance’s social media account acquires thousands of fake “followers”

It’s not unusual for organisations to buy followers in an attempt to give themselves an air of credibility. While one can’t be certain LGB Alliance arranged an influx of followers, it’s certainly suspicious, and LGB Alliance have a history of astrofurfing.

According to social media analysis tool Social Blade, LGB Alliance averaged about 33,750 Twitter followers at the end of January 2021, receiving an average of 19 new followers a day. However, something unusual happened on 8th February 2021, when 1,999 Twitter accounts started following LGB Alliance, their follower count jumping from 33,935 to 35,934.

Screenshot from Social Blade showing LGB Alliance’s influx of 1,999 followers.

On social media, this is suspicious. In fact, one of the signs that an organisation, brand or influencer is trying to trick people into thinking they are more popular or important than they are is when their social media account receives a sudden spike in followers. As Marketing Week’s article ‘How brands can spot influencers with fake followers’ puts it:

The most obvious warning sign easily detected by follower mapping is a sudden, erratic spike in followers, which clearly suggests that influencer has purchased followers … and should be avoided at all costs.

To make things all the more suspicious, in the early hours of 8th February — at 00:08, to be exact — LGB Alliance posted a tweet that was promptly deleted. In part the tweet read: “Welcome to all our new followers! We started up < 16 months ago and today we hit 34k followers”. It’s almost as if they knew what was coming later that day. And some eight hours later — at 08:11 — they tweeted the same message but with a revised figure of 35 thousand followers.

The times these tweets were posted increases the strangeness of the addition of a large number of followers on 8th February because it means that 1,999 followers subscribed to LGB Alliance’s account either in eight minutes (if we take the first tweet) or in eight hours and 11 minutes (if we take the second), both of which are a ridiculously short period of time for that many followers to join (remember, LGB Alliance were averaging 19 new followers in any 24 hour period during the weeks prior to this). Further to this, using these tweets as a guide, it means that LGB Alliance, a UK group, received 1,999 followers during the nighttime in the UK, which is very suspicious itself. Additionally, based on this you would anticipate that most of these accounts that started following LGB Alliance during the British nighttime weren’t British accounts, which would also be a suspicious sign. According to the Marketing Week article mentioned before:

A similarly ominous sign of suspicious activity is if an influencer has a high following of followers in countries that aren’t the influencer’s home territory. For example, if a UK-based influencer is creating UK-focused content, yet has high volumes of followers in countries such as Brazil, Turkey or China, it is likely these are fraudulent, especially given there are substantial numbers of fake-follower operations within these territories.

This is all very suspicious indeed. The day after the 1,999 accounts started following them — and after people had been pointing out how suspicious that was — LGB Alliance tweeted something that, supposedly, was to belay observers concerned: “We suddenly picked up a lot of followers in a 12-hour period. They look like bots. It’s a strange development. We prefer interacting with real people! Should we soft block them? We’d like to hear our supporters’ opinions.” If you have an influx of followers that you think are fake, what do you do? Delete them or ask your legitimate followers’ opinions? What would be the point in the latter? Maybe it gives you a (poor) excuse for tweeting about the influx of followers in an attempt to distance yourself from the situation? Regardless of the reason, most of LGB Alliance’s followers replying to the tweet suggested getting rid of these new followers — advice which LGB Alliance enacted halfheartedly. Of the 1,999 suspicious accounts, LGB Alliance got rid of 352. It’s almost as if they wanted the fake accounts.

Comparison of LGB Alliance’s Twitter followers with those of their supposed sibling organisations.

This isn’t the first time there has been suspicion about the legitimacy of LGB Alliance’s “followers”. LGB Alliance claims to be part of an international, grassroots network, with affiliated LGB Alliance groups in Ireland, Wales, Australia, the US, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Iceland , Norway and Serbia. However, analysis showed that the vast majority of the Twitter followers of these “international branches” were actually just a subset of the accounts that followed the British LGB Alliance.

Comparison of LGB Alliance’s Twitter followers with those of LGB Alliance’s supposed international siblings’ accounts.

And, in fact, these “international branches” had more Twitter followers from the UK than anywhere else, including the countries they were supposed to represent. An ‘ominous sign of suspicious activity is if an influencer has a high following of followers in countries that aren’t the influencer’s home territory’. It makes you think that perhaps this “international, grassroots network” is actually just a small, British, astroturfed group trying to sound more important and representative than they actually are, all with the callous and hate-filled purpose of harming trans people.

When the LGB Alliance Ireland Twitter account was made in October 2020, actual Irish citizens who are really members of the LGBTQI+ community investigated it and found that (a.) the majority of its followers were not from Ireland but from the US and the UK; (b.) while LGB Alliance was registered with Companies House in the UK, no such organisation was registered with the Companies Registration Office in Ireland; and (c.) even the IP address of the account was registered to central London.

As Ireland’s LBGTQI+ community demonstrated, it’s not just online that LGB Alliance’s supposed members are fake. LGB Alliance claims to speak for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, but have been roundly rejected by them multiple times. LGB Alliance have been shown time and again to be a sham, shell organisation trying to conjure legitimacy in order to push its transphobia.

(Here is a petition calling on the UK media to stop uncritically platforming the LGB Alliance hate group.)