Spanish PM wins 70,000 mystery Twitter fans

A surge in the number of Arab followers of the official Twitter account of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has prompted a flurry of press attention and satirical comments on social media.

Spanish PM wins 70,000 mystery Twitter fans
Social media users in Spain were quick to make jokes about Rajoy's new Arab 'followers'. Photo: Pierre Philippe Marcou/AFP

When the number of followers of Rajoy's Twitter account started to leap by tens of thousands a day at the start of the month, reaching 585,000 on Friday morning, the head of the FACUA consumer rights organization, Rubén Sanchez, asked in Spanish daily El Publico if they could be 'zombie' followers.

'Zombies' are automated, paid-for Twitter followers designed to make Twitter accounts look popular. As Rajoy's apparent fan-club overtook that of popular anti-austerity politician Pablo Iglesias, who has 523,000 followers, eyebrows began to be raised.

Indeed, in a matter of hours on Thursday night, Rajoy collected close to 70,000 new followers.

Another possibility was that the account had come under fire from so-called 'spambots' also known simply as 'bots', another type of automated account that follows Twitter users in order to plague them with junk messages.

The website of Spanish TV channel La Sexta pointed out that nearly all of the new followers were apparently Arab, most with few followers themselves and almost no account activity. 

Mariano Rajoy's Twitter team account administrators acknowledged the situation and tweeted:

#NoBots. We welcome real people to our Twitter.


#NoBots We are working to find out who is behind this strange campaign.

Twitter was quick to respond to the situation and the Rajoy account soon retweeted its statement:

We are suspending the fake accounts that break the rules of Twitter

But the situation had already generated on-line jokes.

More than 5000 civilians are missing in Iraq. It's feared that they've gone to Mariano Rajoy's Twitter account

First statement from Rajoy regarding accusations of having fake followers: It's all untrue, except for some things… (referring to Rajoy's infamous statement about press reports of his alleged implication in the scandal surrounding former ruling party treasurer Luis Barcenas)

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