On July 12, Twitter began removing large chunks of followers from some of the platform’s most popular accounts. Katy Perry and Barack Obama saw their follower count drop by millions.
The actions were part of a larger effort the company is taking to battle disinformation, announcing that locked accounts would no longer count toward followers, retweets or likes. Before beginning the removal of certain users from the platform, The Times began tracking the follower counts of 730 users, including the 100 most-followed Twitter accounts.
Though some of Twitter’s most popular accounts lost millions of followers, many of them still had enough followers to cushion the impact. Obama, for example, lost more than 2 million followers July 12, but that amounted to just over 2% of his total follower count.
Other accounts we tracked suffered much more noticeable losses. Twitter itself lost 7.8 million followers on July 12 — more than 12% of its followers. The chief executive of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, stated that he had lost 200,000 followers from his account.
Twitter’s purge of followers has affected some California politicians as well. Gov. Jerry Brown, lost just over 10% of his followers July 12, and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom saw his follower count drop by a similar margin. Republican candidate John Cox has about 14,600 followers, far fewer than Newsom.
Twitter has stated that the work of removing targeted accounts from users’ follower lists will continue over the coming days. Looking at the timeline of its work the morning of July 12 suggests that it is handling the account removals in large batches, because the purge affected different accounts at different times.
The president’s @realDonaldTrump account shed about 300,000 followers, losing them at three different points July 12.
Twitter said it will continue to purge accounts over the week.
We’ll keep tracking these accounts and will update the page as new data become available.
Animation by Swetha Kannan