Have you noticed your Twitter follower count decreasing on Twitter Analytics.
Don’t worry if you have. You aren’t alone. In one round of Twitter account culls in July, President Donald trump lost 340,000 followers, the New York Times lost 732,000 and President Barack Obama lost around 3 million.
We read the culling of accounts as Twitter’s attempt at stricter self-regulation.
Serious questions have been raised about the powerful role that social media plays in democratic elections and issues of national security, with politicians in Europe and the United States much stricter rules if the situation does not improve.
Other tech giants like Facebook and Google have made similar attempts to combat the spread of disinformation and destabilising forces within society, but no internet company made seismic changes so far.
Twitter Follower Cull
The most recent round of Twitter suspensions was targeted at accounts that had ‘previously been suspended for abusive behaviour’ or were ‘evading a previous suspension’.
This week, we are suspending accounts for attempting to evade an account suspension. These accounts were previously suspended for abusive behavior or evading a previous suspension, and are not allowed to continue using Twitter.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) August 14, 2018
It isn’t entirely clear how Twitter plans to identify users that are subverting the suspension process, but TechCrunch writer Sarah Perez posits that they may be using technology from their recently acquired anti-abuse firm Smyte.
This is the latest round of suspensions used by Twitter to combat disinformation, bots and abuse.
The new focus on averting harm on the platform follows accusations of Russian meddling in the electoral victories of Donald Trump in the US and the Leave campaign in Britain, using platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
In the United States, a group of senators including John McCain called for new legislation to compel social media companies to report on political advertising and to hold social media companies to the same rules as traditional media companies.
In Europe, it has been reported that the EU plans to impose fines on companies if terrorist content is not deleted within in an hour of posting.
While Facebook has made subtle changes to its algorithm and launched a campaign to save its public image (which has backfired somewhat in parts of the UK), Twitter has focused on aggressively suspending fake unsavoury accounts.
— RosieEngland18 (@RosieEnglandX0X) August 17, 2018
Keeping Up with The Joneses
The Washington Post said last month that Twitter had suspended as many as 70 million accounts between may and June, and was continuing at the same pace in July.
In the past, there has been a sense that Twitter is shaky when it comes to combating abuse and dealing out strict enforcement decisions.
This sense came out again this month when Twitter did not react to a developing situation involving controversial InfoWars host Alex Jones.
In early August, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Apple banned Jones’s accounts and products from their various services after media backlash against him promoting violence and hate speech.
Twitter, however, did not react immediately.
“We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said at the time. “We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.”
He said this despite several news organisations and personalities pointing out Tweets of Jones that did appear to break Twitter’s rules.
Eventually, Twitter put Jones on a kind of ‘timeout’, suspending him for one week in a ‘read-only’ mode after he tweeted a link to a video calling for supporters to get their ‘battle rifles’ ready.
The InfoWars Twitter account was also suspended a day after Jones’s personal account.