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July 12, 2018, 1:30 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: blog.twitter.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Marlee Baldridge   |   July 12, 2018

Twitter has taken steps to fight spam and bots on the platform. Now, it’s making other changes “as part of our ongoing and global effort to build trust and encourage healthy conversation on Twitter.” The company’s Vijaya Gadde wrote in a blog post Wednesday:

Over the years, we’ve locked accounts when we detected sudden changes in account behavior. In these situations, we reach out to the owners of the accounts and unless they validate the account and reset their passwords, we keep them locked with no ability to log in. This week, we’ll be removing these locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.

Most people will see a change of four followers or fewer; others with larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop. We understand this may be hard for some, but we believe accuracy and transparency make Twitter a more trusted service for public conversation.

Though the most significant changes are happening in the next few days, follower counts may continue to change more regularly as part of our ongoing work to proactively identify and challenge problematic accounts.

In April, Pew found that automated accounts on Twitter were responsible for 66 percent of tweeted links to news sites. Those aren’t necessarily the bots Twitter is after: Automation remains okay to use under many circumstances. But the “malicious” are being targeted. Gadde said Wednesday that the new accounts being deleted from follower accounts aren’t necessarily bot 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.” Weeding out these accounts might discourage the practice of buying fake followers.

Twitter has acknowledged it contributed to the spread of fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and is trying not to have a repeat showing. It’s verifying midterm congressional candidate accounts, it launched an Ads Transparency Center, and now come the new culls.

The Washington Post notes that Twitter suspended more than 70 million accounts in May and June. Twitter also said recently that it’s challenging “more than 9.9 million potentially spammy or automated accounts per week.” (“Challenged” doesn’t necessarily mean “suspended,” but users are prompted to verify a phone or email address to continue using the account.)

You don’t necessarily have to freak out about your follower count dropping, said Twitter CFO Ned Segal, who might also be trying to calm nervous investors who worry about Twitter’s user numbers. Twitter has only just become profitable.

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