Twitter followed up its July purge with another major sweep on November 9, to clean itself of millions of suspicious users which had reappeared since July. The step is an attempt to tackle the problem of fake users which are discouraging investors and advertisers, besides attracting scrutiny from the US Congress.
Friday’s purge was unannounced and resulted in celebrities like Katy Pary losing about 861,000 followers, if social measurement firm, Social Blade’s tally is to be believed. Twitter’s own account has noted a loss of 2.4 million followers.
In July, Twitter announced that it shall no longer count accounts it had “locked” as users, to ensure a more accurate user data; which resulted in at least seven celebrities losing more than two million followers, each. By October, however, many such accounts were “unlocked”, probably by resetting the password; and more than a dozen popular accounts regained about a third of its lost followers, according to Social Puncher, a Russian ad fraud agency. Social Puncher notes that the users had disappeared again this Friday.
On Friday, Twitter said that it “discovered a bug where some of these accounts were briefly added back, which led to misleading follower counts” for “very few accounts.” It had said in July that follower counts might change “more regularly” due to Twitter’s efforts to “identify and challenge problematic accounts.” The ensuing volatility had attracted the attention of prominent public figures like Donald Trump and Elon Musk.
While users like Trump have lost followers in recent days, Friday’s cull was larger for most users, popular or otherwise, according to several accounts reviewed by Reuters on Social Blade.
Twitter’s own account has seen some fluctuations since July when it lost 7.8 million followers. Twitter regained 2.36 million by mid-October, only to lose 2.4 million on Friday, according to Social Blade. Some users experienced a similar drop early in October before the followers returned a few days later, says Social Puncher.
The firm also told Reuters that it suspects that the affected locked accounts are controlled by fraudsters making a business out of selling followers to artificially boost accounts’ popularity, with such accounts exhibiting hallmarks of fakes like few profile details, fans, and posts, etc.
MarQuis Trill, a Los Angeles advertising producer, has informed Reuters that he had bought 3,00,000 followers for $4,500 two years ago, and had lost nearly 2.2 million followers in July but had about 30 percent back until Friday’s purge; to expressing frustration with which he has said, “I didn’t buy that many to be losing like that.”