Twitter a famous microblogging site launched in the year 2006, initiated a change to how it tracks followers that saw some of the most popular users lose millions from their count. They specified that they would be removing locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally, so we were to expect a drop in follower counts as from Friday, 13 July 2018. Twitter was purging locked accounts that the company ‘detected sudden changes in account behavior.’ Twitter usually lock accounts and request users to validate them whenever they detect suspicious activities.
Twitter also said that most users would see a change of about four followers or less, but for those people with larger twitter follower accounts would experience a more significant drop.
The biggest drops were reserved for those with the biggest followings. In the UK, for example, where all of the members of One Direction regularly rank in the top 10 most-followed accounts, Harry Styles lost more than 876,000 followers, bringing him to around 33 million, and Niall Horan lost over 855,000, bringing him to 39 million followers. Adele, the most-followed British woman on Twitter, lost 928,000 followers to bring her to a shade under 28 million. But accounts lost noticeably more followers if they had been popular on Twitter for a long time. That seems to explain discrepancies like Donald Trump (340,000 followers lost, bringing him to 53 million) and Barack Obama (2.3 million followers lost, bringing him to 101m); or Jeremy Corbyn (7,000 followers lost, bringing him down to 1.8 million) and Stephen Fry, one of the earliest celebrity adopters of the site, who lost almost 400,000 of his 13.3 million followers.
When Twitter announced the crackdown, it said it expected to see the typical follower count drop by about 6%. The company locks accounts for various reasons, from spam detection or harassment to the discovery that login credentials have been leaked to other sites.
While they were commonly referred to as bots, that was not always the case, said Vijaya Gadde, from Twitter’s trust and safety team. “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,” she said.
The rationale for the change was to restore an element of trust to a social network that has often struggled with that commodity. “Follower counts are a visible feature, and we want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are meaningful and accurate,” Gadde said.
Her stance was backed up by Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer and a staunch critic of social media toxicity. “People having an artificially inflated follower count made up of bots and redundant accounts are at best deceiving and at worst fraud,” Weed said. “It serves no one & undermines trust in the whole system.”
And to prove that no one’s immune, Twitter’s own account had 63 million followers on Wednesday. Now it’s down to just 55 million.
Coming back to the local Kenyan “Bigwigs,” we have seen some significant drop in follower counts in some popular accounts. Controversial blogger, Cyprian Nyakundi, has lost quite a lot of followers, from over 1 million to now below 690K. Another Twitter bigwig @xtiandela also lost a chunk of followers from over 1 million to now 518K as of writing this blog post.