Twitter doubled down this week on fake accounts and twitter bots, both of which have influenced the spread of fake news and facilitated the sale of follower count boosts.
Twitter’s Legal, Policy, Trust and Safety Lead Vijaya Gadde announced Wednesday that the company would be changing the follower counts of profiles across the globe as they deleted “locked” users that had not taken the steps to regain access to their accounts.
“In most cases, these accounts were created by real people but we cannot confirm that the original person who opened the account still has control and access to it,” Gadde wrote.
In attempts to purge the network of these erroneous accounts, the company is challenging up to 1 million accounts per day. This is more than double the pace it wset last October, an increase that company spokespersons say is part of an overarching procedure of improving the health of Twitter.
“Follower counts are a visible feature, and we want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are meaningful and accurate,” Gadde explained.
Twitter has been challenged to recognize its role in spreading fake information and fostering internet trolling with a wide reach of impacts.
Only six months ago, about 1.4 million Twitter users were notified that they might have interacted with a Tweet curated by or connected to Russia during the 2016 election. Many of these tweets either spread disinformation or fake news sites across the media.
A New York Times story published in January also investigated fake follower boosts and the purchase of followers, exposing a list of celebrities and journalists who had paid for fake accounts to be created and added to their follower counts.
Recovering from both of these blows to their product integrity, Twitter set out to tackle the estimated 50 million inauthentic user accounts. They swept 70 million accounts into the locked category in May and June.
Accounts can be locked for a variety of reasons, including erratic activity, such as tweeting a large number of unsolicited mentions or sharing links that mislead fellow users. Twitter also responds if username and password account data is posted online, and requires that the user change their password to protect their personal information.
In the blog published Wednesday, Gadde emphasized that daily and monthly user interaction metrics are not likely to be impacted by this change, as many of the accounts deleted were neither active nor productive contributors to the platform.
While the average person will only lose about four followers, according to Vijaya Gadde, some accounts have taken a much larger knock.
— Elizabeth Dwoskin (@lizzadwoskin) July 11, 2018
In response to the change, President Trump, whose followers dropped by 100k on Thursday, tweeted that the New York Times and Washington Post should be among the accounts deleted.