Accessing full follower list?


I’ve been drafting what may eventually turn into an article for publication regarding the secrecy of follower lists on Twitter; specifically, whether they can be considered trade secrets under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (or state variants as needed). As an aspect of this, I’m trying to determine whether it’s possible to acquire a full list of followers through the API. For example:

Alice has an account with roughly 15,000 followers. Bob wants to figure out who those followers are so that he can attempt to market to those followers. (I know that he can’t request or make them follow him; that’s a separate issue in the article that I’m addressing.) What would be the most efficient way for Bob to get Alice’s list of followers, either through the main Twitter website or through the Twitter API?

My current understanding is that limits would kick in at 10,000 accounts that would make accessing the entire list impractical, if not impossible. I figured it would be best to ask the experts about this, however, before I make any moves. Also, is there public documentation of these limits that I could cite to?

I would be very appreciative; I think that the intersection of Twitter and business/employment law is going to be big in the next few years, and these are interesting topics to look into.

Any responses or aid would be greatly appreciated.


You can retrieve a list of IDs of users a specific unprotected user follows in groups of 5,000 at a time using the API method [node:10363]. That API method allows 15 requests per 15 minutes for a user account, and 15 requests per 15 minutes for a application context.

To further hydrate those IDs into user objects with the data associated with a user, you would then pass 100 of those IDs at a time to the [node:10305] method. That API method allows 180 requests per 15 minutes for a user accounts, and 60 per 15 minutes for a application context.

This is the kind of pipeline you’d need to develop to analyze these kinds of relationships.

See [node:10362] for some more info on how to do this technically.