Twit­ter Cuts Sus­pect Users From Fol­lower Counts Again, Blames Bug


SAN FRAN­CISCO (Reuters) - Twit­ter Inc (TWTR.N) made an­other at­tempt to make users’ tal­lies of fol­low­ers more ac­cu­rate on Fri­day, sub­tract­ing mil­lions of sus­pi­cious fol­low­ers which had reap­peared on the so­cial me­dia ser­vice since a ma­jor purge in July.

Twit­ter is un­der pressure to tackle its prob­lem of fake users, which are a turn-off for in­vestors and ad­ver­tis­ers and have led to scru­tiny from U.S. Congress.

The com­pany made Fri­day’s move with­out an an­nounce­ment. Pop star Katy Perry lost about 861,000 fol­low­ers, ac­cord­ing to so­cial mea­sure­ment firm So­cial Blade. Twit­ter’s own ac­count lost 2.4 mil­lion fol­low­ers.

In July, Twit­ter said it would stop count­ing ac­counts it “locked” as fol­low­ers, in an ef­fort to make its user data more ac­cu­rate. At least seven celebri­ties lost as many as 2 mil­lion fol­low­ers each.

By Oc­to­ber, how­ever, many of those ac­counts ap­peared to have been un­locked - which can hap­pen af­ter a pass­word re­set - and at least two dozen pop­u­lar users had gained back a third or so of the lost fol­low­ers, ac­cord­ing to data from Rus­sian ad fraud re­searcher So­cial Puncher. Those fol­low­ers dis­ap­peared once again on Fri­day, So­cial Puncher said.

Twit­ter said on Fri­day that it “dis­cov­ered a bug where some of th­ese ac­counts were briefly added back, which led to mis­lead­ing fol­lower counts” for “very few ac­counts.” It said in July that fol­lower counts might change “more reg­u­larly” as part of its ef­forts to “iden­tify and chal­lenge prob­lem­atic ac­counts.” The en­su­ing volatil­ity has caught the at­ten­tion of prom­i­nent users, in­clud­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Donald Trump and Tesla Inc Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Elon Musk.

They and other users lost fol­low­ers in re­cent days, but Fri­day’s cull was larger for most, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral ac­counts Reuters re­viewed on So­cial Blade.

Twit­ter’s own ac­count fell by 7.8 mil­lion fol­low­ers in July but gained back 2.36 mil­lion by mid-Oc­to­ber. It lost 2.4 mil­lion on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to So­cial Blade.

Some users ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar drop in early Oc­to­ber, be­fore the fol­low­ers re­turned days later, So­cial Puncher said.

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