Twitter explains how Obama and Trump lost thousands of followers


As Twitter intensifies its crackdown on accounts it has called ‘problematic,’ several brands, celebrities, organizations and even common Twitter users have noticed a dramatic drop in the number of followers.

Trump and Obama

Image: Donald Trump and Barack Obama

As part of its crackdown, Twitter has said that it is targeting the spread of abuse and misinformation, and in a bid to clamp down on these “problematic” accounts, has decided to nix them completely.

Twitter is coming down hard on accounts that have been hijacked to spread abuse, misinformation and propaganda.

The company said it initiated the crackdown Wednesday with the aim of removing all locked accounts from people’s follower numbers.

Further, the company warned that most people will see a change of “four followers or fewer” but accounts with larger followings will experience a “more significant drop.”

Twitter explained that when it detects “sudden changes in account behavior” it shuts down the profile.

It further said that if, for instance, an account tweets a large volume of unsolicited replies or mentions; or if the account posts misleading links; or if a large number of other accounts block the account in question – the account is locked.

Further, accounts can also be locked if the platform finds that someone’s login credentials have been leaked elsewhere, for example through a data breach at another service.

Twitter said that in both cases, it contacts the owners of the account and asks them to validate the account and reset their password.

However, if the owner doesn’t comply, the account remains locked.

Explaining the action, Vijaya Gadde, from Twitter’s trust and safety team, said in a blogpost, “We’re introducing a change to follower counts as part of our work to make Twitter a more trusted service for public conversation.

“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.”

The company has further stated that these accounts were different from spam accounts, which typically exhibit spammy behavior from the beginning and so are easier to identify.

According to Twitter, the crackdown is part of its renewed effort to build trust and foster a more “healthy” conversation on the platform.

Gadde wrote in the blogpost, “Follower counts are a visible feature, and we want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are meaningful and accurate.”

The move comes months after Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey pledged to tackle the rampant harassment, bots, misinformation and polarisation in a more strategic way in March this year.

Dorsey has tweeted, “We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough.”

He added, “We’ve focused most of our efforts on removing content against our terms, instead of building a systemic framework to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking. This is the approach we need now.”

Following this week’s crackdown, U.S. President Donald Trump, who was recently ranked as the most followed world leader on Twitter, with over 52 million followers – saw his account losing 100,000 followers immediately after Twitter made the change this week.

Meanwhile, his predecessor, former U.S. President Barack Obama lost a whopping 400,000 followers.