Twitter accounts with legions of fishy followers are about to take a hit. As part of its efforts to fight disinformation, the company announced Wednesday that locked accounts will soon stop being counted as followers.
Accounts that boast high numbers of followers are often seen as more credible. Twitter Inc.’s move is designed to chip away at unearned credibility.
The change is set to take effect Thursday. It will be minimal for most users — the average user’s follower count is expected to drop by only about four — but accounts with lots of followers may see a more significant change, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, said in a blog post.
Locked accounts are usually real people’s accounts that have been hacked, Gadde’s post said. (By contrast, typical bot accounts are created to be fake.) Twitter locks an account when it appears to have been compromised.
Social media played a key role in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with Russia-linked accounts buying ads during the election cycle and thousands of Russia-linked fake accounts sharing fake news articles.
Twitter has been fighting the fake-account problem on other fronts too. For example, it suspended more than 70 million accounts in May and June, the Washington Post reported.
Twitter and fellow social media giant Facebook Inc. both have beefed up efforts to fight disinformation and manipulation since the 2016 election. This year, Facebook altered its news feed to focus more on posts from users’ friends than on news sites.