Twitter to remove inactive accounts, rolling back users’ follower counts

July 13, 2018

Twitter Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead Vijaya Gadde announced on July 11 that the social media giant will start removing tens of millions of locked, inactive accounts this week—a global initiative that she said would reduce the number of followers displayed on many profiles.

The company has opted to do so, Gadde said, because “we want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are meaningful and accurate.”

Why does an account get locked in the first place? Twitter detects changes in tweeting behavior—and shuts the account down in order to contact the owner to confirm that he or she still has control of it.

Among the suspicious changes in behavior:

  • Tweeting a large volume of unsolicited replies or mentions;
  • Tweeting misleading links;
  • Blocking of the account by a large number of other members; or
  • Use of email and password combinations from other services that could jeopardize the security of an account.

Most people will see a change of four followers or fewer; others with larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop.

The frozen accounts being deleted represent “about 6% of follows on Twitter,” Ian Plunkett, a Twitter spokesperson, told Politico.

According to the political news outlet, “The move could stoke conservatives’ ire, particularly if President Donald Trump, with his roughly 53.4 million followers as of today, is among the users that lose a large number of followers. Twitter faced heaps of criticism from the right in February for silencing scores of accounts it said were spam or ill-intentioned bots. Conservatives, alleging censorship, branded the episode “#TwitterLockout.”

Will the initiative expand to include Tweets, Likes, and Retweets? Gadde says, “Our ongoing work to improve the health of conversations on Twitter encompasses all aspects of our service. 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. Once an account is locked, it cannot Tweet, Like, or Retweet—and it is not served ads.”

Research contact: @vijaya

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *