Last week Twitter took the drastic step of removing millions of inactive or fake accounts, resulting in follower counts dropping for nearly everyone on the platform. Until recently, it wasn’t in Twitter’s financial interests to delete those accounts even though it knew of their existence, but pressure from Congress and various State investigations thanks to Russian election meddling and fake news forced the company’s hand.
An investigation by the New York Times found that celebrities, politicians, athletes and pundits all purchased fake followers and engagement in an effort to boost their follower counts and establish “social authority.” A small Florida company sold the same bot followers over and over to many high profile clients, although sometimes it was without their knowledge as often they were purchased via an ad agency, social media manager, or business manager.
Many music celebrities took a hit in the purge, although some as not bad as others. For instance, Katy Perry lost 3 million followers, but still is the most followed person on Twitter with 107 million. Justin Bieber lost 3 million as well as is down to 1o4 million, while Ariana Grande lost almost a million. Rhianna, Taylor Switch and Lady Gaga all lost between 2.5 and 3% of their followers. Even Twitter’s own account lost 8 million followers amounting to around a 12.5% loss.
According to the Times article, there are several types of Twitter bots that were used, many of them for legitimate purposes. A scheduled bot posts messages based on the time, while a watcher bot monitors other Twitter accounts or websites and tweet when something changes. Amplification bots are more devious, as they follow, retweet and like tweets sent by clients who have bought their services.
Twitter is said to have removed more than 70 million accounts in May and June alone, so it’s making great strides in cleaning up the platform. It couldn’t come soon enough though, as many former users have already bolted thanks to the sometimes less than appropriate content and flame wars that seems to haunt it.
It’s still powerful when used by artists and bands to get their message out, but today there a much better ways to do so, and in a better environment as well.