- The Twitter purge has wiped millions of followers off top accounts
- Celebrities, politicians and social media influencers found their Twitter followings knocked down this week
- Donald Trump, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, Barack Obama were among the many affected
CALIFORNIA, U.S. – Twitter pulled what many are comparing to the act of ultimate destruction by supervillian Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War, of wiping out half the human population on the universe, this week.
As part of its long-due purge, Twitter this week, wiped out followers, eliminating millions of accounts in a single snap of a finger.
The purge, which started earlier this year, when it was revealed that thousands of Russian troll accounts on Twitter were used to influence the 2016 Presidential elections, led to the company unveiling new policies that were focussed on wiping out bots, fake accounts, and those accounts that make tweets viral artificially.
In February this year, Twitter said that it was cleaning up the network, as it sought a more genuine interaction on the platform.
Subsequently, the company suspended several accounts that were in violation of its policies.
Then, last week, a report in The Washington Post first revealed the company’s latest efforts to deal with the spread of fake news – as part of which, Twitter was revealed to have suspended tens of thousands of accounts.
The report noted that over the last two months, Twitter has suspended more than 70 million accounts.
It also pointed out that the number would account to Twitter suspending over a million fake accounts per day.
The number was also seen to be double its rate of suspension since October, when it first testified on the Hill along with representatives from Facebook and Google.
Despite warnings from experts that Twitter’s aggressive action and unprecedented takedown of fake news accounts, might be putting the company’s own user growth at risk, Twitter persisted with its action.
The company subsequently also suffered a drop in stock price on Monday, when Twitter stock tanked on concern around user growth.
After the report appeared on Friday, Twitter’s shares fell more than 8 percent on Monday.
Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president for trust and safety, explained in the report that many of the accounts being suspended had not tweeted frequently, meaning their removal wouldn’t significantly impact active user counts.
Harvey also said, “One of the biggest shifts is in how we think about balancing free expression versus the potential for free expression to chill someone else’s speech. Free expression doesn’t really mean much if people don’t feel safe.”
Harvey further noted that the company is changing the calculus between promoting public discourse and preserving safety. Adding that Twitter only recently was able to dedicate the resources and develop the technical capabilities to target malicious behavior in this way.
Yet, on Monday, analysts pointed out that Twitter’s plunge makes for the stock’s worst day since March 27 when it shed 12 percent.
However, the shares were still up 77 percent in 2018 and 136 percent in the past 12 months.
A week has passed since the purge was made public, and over the last seven days, many have started noticing the impact of Twitter’s actions.
According to reports, several top accounts lost millions of followers, with celebrities, politicians and social media influencers being affected the most.
The most obvious impact was observed on Thursday, when several celebrities and politicians found their Twitter followings knocked down a few digits.
Reports noted that an active Twitter user since the company’s early days, actor Ashton Kutcher saw his follower count drop by more than a million.
Kutcher, who led many other celebrities to embrace the platform had 19.1 million on Wednesday afternoon.
However, by Thursday evening, his follower count was down to 18 million, a drop of nearly 6 percent.
Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey, who joined the platform in 2009 and has been accumulating tens of thousands of global followers since then, had her following cut by about 1.4 million between Wednesday and Thursday evening.
Similarly, Ellen DeGeneres loss a whopping two million followers – leaving her at 76.1 million followers.
Another popular user, Rihanna lost over two million followers and is now down to 86.8 million followers, while Katy Perry saw her count drop by three million to 107 million.
Justin Bieber lost about 2.7 million followers.
Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Bill Gates lost nearly 900,000 followers.
Amongst politicians, the U.S. President Donald Trump, who often users his Twitter as his presidential and personal mouthpiece and addresses his followers and critics directly, lost about 340,000 followers, knocking his follower count down to 53 million from 53.4 million on Wednesday.
His predecessor, another popular politicians on the platform, Barack Obama took a much bigger hit, losing three million followers in a single day.
From 104 million followers on Wednesday, his count on Twitter dropped to 101 million.
Meanwhile, Queen Rania of Jordan lost about 300,000 followers and Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda lost about one-third of his Twitter followers in a single day.
The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan lost over 200,000 followers.
Further, Pope Francis lost 100,000 of his digital flock and is now down to 17 million followers.
Other typical users, including journalists and influencers too lost hundreds or thousands of followers.
In an ominous warning, a Twitter spokeswoman Aly Pavela explained that the work of eliminating the accounts from users’ follower counts would continue over the coming days.
At the end of the purge, Twitter is reportedly expecting it will have reduced the total follower count on the platform by about 6 percent — a substantial drop.
Incidentally, Twitter itself was not spared and its main account lost about 12 percent of its total followers, which is about 7.7 million followers from Wednesday to Thursday.
And the social media network’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey lost about 230,000 followers by Thursday evening.