Twitter to Remove Millions of Accounts from Follower Numbers as Part of New Push

Hey, you know that person on Twitter who you’re just certain has purchased followers (because why would 30k people be following their random tweets)? Now, your theory could see some validation, with Twitter announcing that it will be removing locked accounts from follower counts globally.

As explained by Twitter:

“As part of our ongoing and global effort to build trust and encourage healthy conversation on Twitter, every part of the service matters. Follower counts are a visible feature, and we want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are meaningful and accurate.”

So what are “locked” accounts?

Twitter uses its anti-spam measures to detect unusual activity on accounts, including changes in user behavior. These could include:

  • Tweeting a large volume of unsolicited replies or mentions
  • Tweeting misleading links
  • If a large number of accounts block the account after mentioning them
  • If an email and password combination has been posted online (via hackers) and Twitter thinks the account is at risk

These accounts may well have been created by humans initially, but the changes in their activity could suggest that they’ve been taken over by bots. As a result, Twitter locks these accounts and sends an e-mail to their owners requesting that they validate their details and reset their password. Up till now, those accounts have simply remained static, unable to be used, but still counted in follower numbers. Now, Twitter will actively remove them from follower lists, which may see your following number reduce.

On average, Twitter says, most users will see a change of around four users in their stats, but the larger your following, the more likely you’ll see impact. While Twitter currently has 336 million monthly active users, over 1.3 billion Twitter accounts have reportedly been created on the platform, and the average user has around 700 followers. Given these numbers, you could assume that around two million profiles will be removed as a result of this purge, though Twitter’s told The New York Times that it’s more likely in the tens of millions of accounts that’ll be affected.

But an important note – Twitter has sought to specifically clarify that these removals will not impact their actual DAU and MAU counts.

“Locked accounts that have not reset their password in more than one month are not included in MAU or DAU. While today’s change doesn’t affect MAU or DAU, some accounts we remove from the service as part of our ongoing commitment to a healthy public conversation have the potential to impact publicly reported metrics.”

As we’ve noted previously, part of the ongoing narrative around Twitter’s apparent inaction on fake and lapsed accounts in the past has revolved around the suggestion that leaving those profiles in circulation has helped the platform prop-up its overall user counts, lessening market pressure. But more recently, the platform has been ramping up its activity, removing questionable accounts at a faster rate than ever before, while brands have also started to make noise about fake follower concerns, particularly in regards to influencer marketing, spurring further momentum.

As Twitter notes, ensuring follower counts are meaningful and accurate is important, and with the public nature of Twitter making it a proxy for many influence measurement platforms – however accurate you find those measures to be – it’s good to see the platform working to improve its data, even if, potentially, it might impact their overall growth perception.

Twitter still has a way to go, obviously, there’s still a lot to do to make the platform more accountable and their numbers more accurate. But they are moving on this, which is a positive step for the entire social media – and especially social media marketing – sector.

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