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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Twitter's fake-user purge separates the bots from nots

Obama, Taylor Swift and Donald Trump among those that see drop in followers linked to 10 million suspicious accounts

Former US President Barack Obama was among those who saw the numbers of their Twitter followers fall after the social-media site purged the platform of suspected fake users this week. AFP PHOTO 
Former US President Barack Obama was among those who saw the numbers of their Twitter followers fall after the social-media site purged the platform of suspected fake users this week. AFP PHOTO 

Former US president Barack Obama and celebrities Ellen DeGeneres and Taylor Swift were among those who lost large swaths of Twitter followers in the social-media site’s crackdown on fake users and bots suspected to be linked to up to 10 million accounts.

President Donald Trump, one of the most prolific and high-profile tweeters, lost about 100,000 of his approximately 53.4 million Twitter followers, according to the Washington Post, and Mr Obama lost about 400,000 from his 104 million followers. Katy Perry, currently the most-followed person on Twitter, had more than 109 million followers Wednesday - a number that plunged to about 108 million by Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy, trust and safety, said the company would begin removing "locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down." Locked accounts are those identified to have involved sudden suspicious changes in activity.

The company recently said it’s identifying almost 10 million dubious accounts a week and is putting all accounts through a security check. The Washington Post reported last week that Twitter has suspended more than one million accounts a day in recent months, and the rate has more than doubled since October, when the company, under congressional pressure, revealed how Russians used fake accounts to manipulate the US presidential election.

Twitter shares fell 5 per cent on Monday on concern that removing millions of fake accounts would impede user growth. The stock gained 3.2 percent on Thursday.

Other high-profile figures also took a hit to their numbers of followers. Stephen Fry lost 400,000 followers while Star Wars actor Mark Hamill lost 15,000.

Twitter’s top executive didn’t slide by unscathed either.

Jack Dorsey, chief executive officer and co-founder, said in a tweet on Thursday that he lost 200,000 followers, bringing his total down to 4 million, after Twitter made good on its pledge to remove suspicious accounts.

In the interest of full disclosure: The main account of The National saw its total fall to 899,000 after six thousand followers were removed by the platform.