A number of top Twitter accounts are seeing a noticeable drop in their follower counts this week in the wake of another fake account purge.
President Donald Trump, Tesla boss Elon Musk and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, as well as celebrities Kim Kardashian-West, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry – the most followed account on Twitter – lost thousands of followers.
Twitter on Wednesday announced that it was purging locked accounts from users’ follower counts, marking its latest effort to crack down on fake accounts, bots and harassment on the platform.
‘This week we’ll be removing locked Twitter accounts (locked when we detect suspicious changes in behavior) from follower counts across profiles globally,’ Dorsey wrote in a tweet earlier this week.
‘The number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.’
He added in a tweet hours later that he’d lost 200,000 followers as a result of the action.
The official Twitter account was the biggest loser by far, however, with 8 million accounts wiped from its total follower count, according to data collected by social media marketing firm Socialbakers.
Perry, Bieber, Lady Gaga and former President Barack Obama each lost over two million followers.
Meanwhile, Trump saw a sizable 300,000 followers wiped from his account.
In a blog post announcing the move, Twitter explained that the locked accounts were being removed as a way to restore trust in the site.
‘Most people will see a change of four followers or fewer; others with larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop,’ said Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust, wrote in a blog post.
‘We understand this may be hard for some, but we believe accuracy and transparency make Twitter a more trusted service for public conversation.’
Many of the accounts were removed earlier this week, but Gadde said follower counts will likely change in the coming weeks and months as Twitter continues to zero in on ‘problematic accounts.’
Some Twitter accounts have artificially inflated their follower counts as a way to gain credibility, influence or clout on the platform.
‘The fact that Twitter is taking steps to remove fake accounts is sending a message that they have become more vigilant about eliminating illegitimate activity on the platform,’ said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers.
‘This is a step in the right direction as Twitter shows its commitment to delivering an authentic, “digital pollution” free environment for both marketers and users.’
Over the past year, Twitter has doubled down on its efforts to clean up the site.
Dorsey has even taken to Twitter to speak about the issue – posting a series of tweets in March where he wrote about the need to assess the ‘health of public conversation’ on Twitter as it struggles to find a cure for trolls, bots, echo chambers and other ills.
Twitter is also asking outside experts to pitch proposals for ways to measure the service’s health by the quality of debates, conversations, and critical thinking.
The firm has been working to be more transparent about the effects of its ongoing crackdown.
Gadde explained that the firm may choose to lock an account if they’ve displayed sudden changes in behavior, such as tweeting numerous unsolicited replies or mentions, tweeting ‘misleading’ links, or if they’ve been blocked by several accounts after mentioning them.
‘We sometimes lock an account if we see email and password combinations from other services posted online and believe that information could put the security of an account at risk – so we require accounts to change their passwords for protection,’ Gadde explained.
‘Until we confirm that everything is OK with the account, we lock it, which makes them unable to tweet or see ads.
‘This specific update is focused on followers because it is one of the most visible features on our service and often associated with account credibility,’ she added.