In a bid to better police its platform, Twitter has cracked down on suspicious and fake accounts in a campaign to flush out bots and trolls from its network. According to data obtained by The Washington Post, Twitter suspended 13 million accounts during a weekend-long cull in mid-May.
Other sources from the company told the Post that the rate of account suspensions has more than doubled since last October. In a recent blog post, the company said it had identified and challenged more than 9.9m “potentially spammy” or automated accounts per week, compared with 6.4m in December 2017.
It would appear that the company has no intention of easing up on its hard-line approach to bots. According to insiders, the more stringent approach was spurred on by pressure to comply with scrutiny from the congressional investigation into Russian disinformation on social platforms in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Twitter and other social media platforms have faced much closer inspection since it was discovered that a St Petersburg-based troll factory used social media to mislead millions of US voters.
Twitter Shares Drop in Response to Rapid Cull
This aggressive removal of dodgy accounts could result in a decline in the number of its monthly users in the second quarter. Since the rapid clearance of fake accounts was reported by the Post, the company’s shares have taken a knock and dropped more than 8% in early trading on Monday. However, this move marks a shift in the platform’s ethos, which traditionally took a hands-off approach to policing its network.
Del Harvey, Twitter’s Vice President for Trust and Safety said: “One of the biggest shifts is in how we think about balancing free expression versus the potential for free expression to chill someone else’s speech.” She added that: “Free expression doesn’t really mean much if people don’t feel safe.”
Researchers and investor have long been critical of the company for its lack of action on this front. Democratic Senator, Mark R. Warner, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee said of the suspensions: “I’m glad that – after months of focus on this issue – Twitter appears to be cracking down on the use of bots and other fake accounts, though there is still much work to do.”