Social networking platform Twitter announced Wednesday it will be removing accounts it had deemed suspicious from user's follower counts, as part of a recent push to promote accuracy on the website. This could reduce the number of "followers" of some of the website's most popular users, including politicians and celebrities.
The website had locked accounts of users where Twitter "detected sudden changes in account behavior," such as sharing misleading links, being blocked by a large number of accounts that account had interacted with, or a large number of unsolicited replies to other users' tweets, Twitter general counsel Vijaya Gadde wrote. The accounts are locked, preventing one from logging in and using the account until the account's owner verified their use.
Wednesday's change will remove these locked accounts from users' follower counts, which are visible on a user's account page and often are used as a barometer of an individual's sway on the website, which 336 million users log into every month, according to USA Today.
Gadde wrote that while the average Twitter user will see their follower count drop only by about four, popular accounts could see a more dramatic drop in the number of their followers.
In the wake of reports that Russia had used fake accounts platform to help sow discord in the American public in the lead-up and aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pledged in March 2018 to help clean up the website.
And on Friday, The Washington Post reported that Twitter had suspended more than a million accounts a day in recent months — upward of 70 million in the months of May and June 2018 alone.
"I wish Twitter had been more proactive sooner," Sen. Mark Warner [D-Virginia] the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Post. "I'm glad that — after months of focus on this issue — Twitter appears to be cracking down on the use of bots and other fake accounts, though there is still much work to do."
Following the Post's report, U.S. President Donald Trump, who often was the recipient of support from Russian-linked accounts, posted this tweet:
Twitter is getting rid of fake accounts at a record pace. Will that include the Failing New York Times and propaganda machine for Amazon, the Washington Post, who constantly quote anonymous sources that, in my opinion, don’t exist - They will both be out of business in 7 years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 7, 2018
One such Twitter account suspended in 2017, @TEN_GOP, purporting to be related to the Tennessee Republican Party, had its tweets shared on the platform by Trump White House officials such as Kellyanne Conway and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
In February 2018, special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian influence in the Trump campaign and the 2016 election, named the account in an indictment, alleging it was one of many on social media that "primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump."