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Twitter follower counts drop after a change in how they are counted

The Verge logo The Verge 12/7/2018 Casey Newton
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Twitter will stop including accounts that have been locked for bad behavior in publicly posted follower counts, the company said today. Accounts are locked for violating the company’s standards remain frozen unless the owner logs back in and resets their password. From now on, those locked accounts won’t be counted as followers of any account they had followed.

Most people will lose four followers or fewer because of the change, Twitter said. But large accounts could lose hundreds of thousands of accounts. President Donald Trump’s account lost 100,000 followers immediately after Twitter made the change, a Washington Post reporter found, and former President Barack Obama lost 400,000.

“You should be confident that the follower numbers presented across Twitter are meaningful and accurate,” said Vijaya Gadde, who oversees Twitter’s safety team, in a tweet. “We’re introducing a change to follower counts as part of our work to make Twitter a more trusted service for public conversation.”

Reasons that Twitter would lock an account include tweeting a large volume of replies or mentions, tweeting “misleading” links, and being blocked by a large number of accounts after the account mentions them. Accounts can also be locked for more innocuous reasons, such as if the account’s email and password are posted online as part of a leak.

Twitter would not answer whether it would stop showing engagement numbers from locked accounts — eliminating their likes and retweets from publicly posted counts, for example.

The changes will be implemented over “the next few days,” Twitter said. But follower counts will continue to change as Twitter works to remove more bad accounts from the service.

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