Twitter has been trying to combat bot accounts, locked accounts and fake news for a long time now. The tech company has been censured for not preventing hate speech on its platform, prompting it to start eliminating millions of accounts and bots. In contrast to these intentional elimination of false accounts, recently a bug caused several Twitter users to lose millions of followers.
Bug removes locked accounts
Some users lost up to millions of followers on Twitter recently. According to the social measurement firm Social Blade, Pop star Katy Perry lost over 861,000 followers. Even Twitter’s official account lost approximately 2.4 million followers!
Twitter announced in July that it would stop counting locked accounts as followers to make the follower count more accurate. The tech company said at the time that follower counts might change more frequently because of its efforts to find and challenge suspicious accounts. Often, accounts can get locked if a password reset is triggered. Social Puncher, an ad fraud researcher, has observed that one-third of the accounts that were locked and hidden from follower counts were restored in October, only to get locked again.
Accounts Twitter removed may be those that are paid for via advertising services and used for increasing the follower counts of accounts. Twitter said “it discovered a bug where some of these accounts were briefly added back, which led to misleading follower counts for very few accounts.”
Several legitimate accounts were removed in the process
A number of legitimate accounts were also eliminated in the removal process. Later, users were notified and with the help of password reset, their accounts were restored and counted again as followers on others’ accounts.
MarQuis Trill, a Los Angeles advertising producer, said that he bought 300,000 followers for $4,500 over two years ago, and then in July he lost nearly 2.2 million followers. Social Puncher said that the removed accounts share a number of traits that highlight them as fake. For example, they have very few profile details, if any, few posts, few fans, yet often follow many other accounts. Several news outlets lost many followers. The New York Times, for example, had a net loss of over 180,000 followers.
In its statement, Twitter said “We’re now working to ensure everyone’s follower counts are back to normal. This issue affected very few accounts.”