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Twitter’s crackdown on fake accounts will make you look less popular

The Twitter app appears April 26, 2017, on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP)
The Twitter app appears April 26, 2017, on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP)

Twitterati, get ready for your digital ego to be bruised.

The social-media company warned on Wednesday that its crackdown on fake accounts means users will have fewer followers.

When Twitter detects sudden changes in behavior, like spammy tweeting patterns or sharing of misleading web links, it contacts the owner to confirm control of the account. If the owner doesn’t respond and reset their password, Twitter locks the account. This week, the company said it will remove these from profiles, reducing the number of followers users have.

“Most people will see a change of four followers or fewer; others with larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop,” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy, trust and safety, wrote in a blog. “Follower counts are a visible feature, and we want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are meaningful and accurate.”

The company recently said it’s identifying almost 10 million dubious accounts a week and is putting all accounts through a security check. The stock slumped earlier this week on concern the crackdown would dent user growth. While it excludes spam accounts in reported user data, Twitter noted early this year that monthly active user numbers would be “negatively impacted” by efforts to expunge fake accounts.

Removing locked accounts from follower counts won’t impact Twitter’s monthly or daily active user metrics, the company said on Wednesday.

“Our digital ecosystem is being polluted by a growing number of fake user accounts, so Twitter’s commitment to cleaning up the digital space should be welcomed wholeheartedly by everyone, from users of the platforms, to creators and advertisers,” Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed wrote in an email to Bloomberg. “People having an artificially-inflated follower count made up of bots and redundant accounts is at best deceiving and at worst, fraud.”

Unilever was among the major companies that threatened in February to pull advertising from social-media services, including Twitter, because of a rise in hate speech, abusive content and fake news. Bloomberg LP produces TicToc, a global breaking news network on Twitter.


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