The FDP saw their Twitter numbers soar at the start of the month, leaping from around 6,400 to more than 36,000. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday, 81 percent of these new followers were identified by a checking service as fake.
But the FDP said they had not bought the followers and suggested it was because they were SOBs – at least in Portuguese. Apparently the party’s initials are the acronym for the common insult filho da puta in the language.
“I can definitively state that we do not buy either Twitter or Facebook accounts,” FDP spokesman Peter Blechschmidt told the paper.
He said the origin of the amazing growth in interest could only be speculated upon, but that nearly all the new followers were abroad, and the Portuguese insult may have been the reason.
Yet the Süddeutsche Zeitung noted that FDP had been used in Portugal as SOB for a long time without the junior coalition partner having benefited on Twitter.
And although it seems many of the followers could well be fake, the FDP said they could not make the checks themselves. “In the light of the considerable time it would take, we will not be personally checking our followers, or removing them. It is the opinion of the FDP that Twitter should be the one regulating the matter,” a party statement said.
Both the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel magazine noted the possibility the FDP may have been the victim of a defamatory attack by a third party paying for the followers to smear the Free Democrats.
Although the pro-business FDP is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political partner of choice, it is also the biggest problem facing her Christian Democrats heading towards September’s general election. If the party does not clear the five-percent hurdle to parliamentary representation, Merkel’s conservatives could also lose power.
Recent polls suggested the FDP might manage to garner five percent, but the ZDF Politbarometer poll released on Friday suggested the party had again slipped below that to four percent.