Twitter to remove millions of suspicious accounts

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The social media platform is working to remove fake accounts from the site

In an effort to regain users’ trust in the popular social media site, Twitter will be removing millions of fake accounts from users’ followers lists starting on Thursday.

Many Twitter users have let fake or automated accounts follow them in the hopes of inflating their follower totals and generating the appearance of having social media influence. Oftentimes, these individuals use their high follower counts to help spur business endeavors, advance political activism, or bolster entertainment careers.

The change will take place immediately on Thursday, with users instantly seeing their follower numbers drop if they have bought fake followers or were followed by fake accounts. In doing so, the total combined follower count on Twitter would drop by six percent, despite the company not revealing the exact number of affected users. Overall, tens of millions of suspicious accounts will be removed from users’ followers.

“We don’t want to incentivize the purchase of followers and fake accounts to artificially inflate follower counts, because it’s not an accurate measure of someone’s influence on the platform or influence in the world,” said Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president for trust and safety. “We think it’s a really important and meaningful metric, and we want people to have confidence that these are engaged users following other accounts.”

The decision to remove fake accounts will also benefit advertisers who rely on social media influencers to promote products and brands to their wide reach of followers. Unilever, an advertiser who spends billions of dollars a year on advertising, recently announced it would no longer pay influencers who purchased followers. Instead the company said it will put that money towards advertising that helps to eliminate fraud. The company’s CEO Keith Weed was complimentary of Twitter’s recent decision.

“People will believe more and read more on Twitter if they know there is less bot activity and more human activity,” Weed said. “I would encourage and ask others to follow.”

Twitter’s recent security measures

Twitter has long been working to remove spam accounts from its site. Late last month, the company mandated that new users verify their accounts with an email address or phone number when first signing up.

“This is an important change to defend against people who try to take advantage of our openness,” the company wrote in a blog post. “We will be working closely with our Trust & Safety Council and other expert NGOs to ensure this change does not hurt someone in a high-risk environment where anonymity is important.”

At the time of the decision, Twitter reported that the change had stopped the creation of over 50,000 spam accounts per day.

Earlier this year, Twitter also began suspending accounts that were linked to “tweetdecking” -- the process of mass retweeting stolen content in order to help it go viral. Twitter users saw popular “tweetdeckers” like Common White Girl, Dory, and Finah suspended from the site for violating spam policies that forbid mass duplication.

“To be clear: Twitter prohibits any attempt to use automation for the purposes of posting or disseminating spam, and such behavior may result in enforcement action,” the company wrote.

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