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Gingrich campaign denies fake Twitter follower accusations

NBC's Alex Moe

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Newt Gingrich campaign has denied recent allegations that more than 90% of the former House Speaker’s Twitter followers are not real.

Gingrich’s handle, @newtgingrich, has more than 1.3 million Twitter followers, more than 20 times the number of followers for Mitt Romney, the next closest with more than 63,000 followers. In fact, Gingrich's followers are more than six times the entire field of announced candidates combined and double Twitter star Sarah Palin's number of followers.

Campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond wrote in a statement that Gingrich is not responsible for the legitimacy of his followers.

“Twitter alone is the authority on counting followers and policing their legitimacy," Hammond wrote. "At no time has the campaign or Gingrich Communications employed an outside group to inflate the number of followers of @newtgingrich. Any accusation of the kind is a lie, a smear and unsubstantiated.”

The response comes after a New York based search company, PeekYou, announced yesterday that it had analyzed Gingrich’s followers and found a ‘consumer ratio’ of 8% (or about 106,055 accounts). According to PeekYou, “A Consumer Ratio measures the percentage of a Twitter audience that is identified as a “consumer” or “voter” in Newt’s case, vs business, private/anonymous and spam accounts.”

“We have seen some pretty low ‘Consumer Ratios’ in our testing, but Newt Gingrich’s was the lowest we had ever seen. At first, we actually thought it might have been a bug on our side, but a quick manual look at the data showed our analysis was true,” Michael Hussey, CEO and founder of PeekYou, said on the website.

Ben Smith at Politico reported, per Hussey, "Gingrich's place on Twitter's now-defunct suggested user list was also a good explanation for the data he found." Smith also linked to a Tweet by Hussey, in which he wrote, "@peekyou is not accusing @newtgingrich of buying followers. Spammy followers could be related to being on the suggested user list."

Here is a breakdown as of today of the follower counts for those campaigning (or possibly going to campaign):

@newtgingrich 1,326,122
@MittRomney 63,824
@TeamBachmann 24,205
@JonHuntsman 8,030
@timpawlenty 45,786
@RickSantorum 13,714
@RonPaul 20,008 
@THEHermanCain 52,576
@SarahPalinUSA 621,037
@TexGov 13,880