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Explained: Why many Twitter handles keep losing followers

A lot of Twitter users have tweeted about losing followers, ranging from a few hundreds to thousands. Why is this happening, and what has Twitter said?

Written by Shruti Dhapola , Edited by Explained Desk | Chandigarh |
June 12, 2021 10:01:43 am
The login/sign up screen for a Twitter account is seen on a laptop computer. (AP)

A lot of Twitter users, including actor Anupam Kher, have tweeted about losing followers ranging from a few hundreds to thousands of users in recent days. According to Twitter, this is the impact of regular clean up exercises on the platform. In fact, earlier too handles have seen similar drops in followers.

What has Twitter said about the drop in follower count?

In a statement to indianexpress.com, a Twitter spokesperson said the company “regularly challenges accounts to validate or confirm account details, like password or phone number, to better protect the integrity of the conversation on Twitter”. According to Twitter, until an account confirms the additional information, it remains in a locked state and therefore it “will not count toward follower counts”.

This results in a drop in follower counts for many users.

How does Twitter define platform manipulation?

According to the company, any attempts to “engage in bulk, aggressive, or deceptive activity that misleads others and/or disrupts their experience,” is defined as manipulation by the network.

Twitter says manipulation on the platform can take many forms and that running fake accounts to mislead others is in violation of its policies. Users giving out misleading information on their account is also considered as part of platform manipulation. Examples of this kind of misleading account information include “using stock or stolen profile photos, use of stolen or copied profile bios; and use of intentionally misleading profile information, including profile location,” according to the policy.

In other words, if the handle does not associate clearly with an individual or entity, it could be blocked till these details are clarified. For instance, there are hundreds of accounts that use the same display picture and name, like that of a popular actor or politician. Such accounts are frequently under the scanner of Twitter.

What does Twitter have to say on artificially boosting followers?

Users are forbidden from inflating their own or others’ followers or engagement by artificial means, according to the policy. These means include selling or purchasing followers, or even selling engagements such as Retweets, Likes, mentions, Twitter Poll votes.

Further use of “third-party services or apps that claim to add followers or add engagements to Tweets,” is considered platform manipulation. Any kind of trading of followers, and Twitter accounts is also a violation.

Twitter also says that follower churn, which is “following and then unfollowing large numbers of accounts in an effort to inflate one’s own follower count,” is misuse of the platform as well.

Any kind of “indiscriminate following”, which is defined as “following and/or unfollowing a large number of unrelated accounts in a short time period, particularly by automated means”, is in violation.

Duplicating another account’s followers, particularly using automation is also not allowed.

How does Twitter check for such behaviour?

Twitter notes that they take actions such as anti-spam challenges to fight platform manipulation.

In anti-spam challenges, when Twitter suspects an account of indulging in such activities it may lock the account, until they can provide more information, such as a phone number or solve reCAPTCHA. This is likely what happened with a lot of accounts recently, and if they didn’t pass Twitter’s challenge, they will remain locked.

According to Twitter, “if the platform manipulation or spam offense” is an isolated incident, its actions may range from deletion of tweets to temporarily locking account(s). But it warns that any further “platform manipulation offenses will result in permanent suspension.”

Also if Twitter believes that the user is “in violation of our fake accounts policy,” it may demand some government-issued identification (such as a driver’s license or passport) in order to reinstate the account. Users can always submit an appeal if they believe their account was wrongly locked or suspended.

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