Twitter crackdown axes lakhs of Modi, Trump followers

Fake followers

DH Graphic/Gangadhar R A

Twitter’s dramatic crackdown on fake, automated and suspicious accounts has caught celebrities, world leaders and high-profile desi politicians in a twister of follower woes.

At last count on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had his massive follower base sliced by a whopping three lakh, equalling what US President Donald Trump experienced just a day before.

But for Bollywood matinee idol Amitabh Bachchan, the drop was even more painful at over 4,24,000. Shah Rukh Khan could do no star turn as his follower base fell by over 3.62 lakh. Actor Salman Khan’s avid Twitter presence recorded a depletion that exceeded 3.40 lakh.

The micro-blogging platform’s sanitisation drive spared none.

The crackdown was always on the cards. Cornered for not doing enough to control the trolls, Twitter had on Wednesday reiterated its intention: “Over the years, we’ve locked accounts when we detected sudden changes in account behavior. In these situations, we reach out to the owners of the accounts and unless they validate the account and reset their passwords, we keep them locked with no ability to log in,” said its blog.

To show that it means business this time, Twitter started removing these locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. This has seriously dented the widespread practice of buying followers to increase one’s social influence.

Political parties, including the Congress and BJP, have in the past traded charges that fake followers were routinely bought by their leaders.

But will this mean the Monthly Active User (MAU) of Twitter will get affected?

A blog post from the platform explained why it will not: “Twitter is no longer counting as followers any accounts that have been locked because of suspected fraud. Locked accounts had already been kept out of Twitter’s daily and monthly active user figures.”

American singer Katy Perry tops the Twitter chart with 107 million followers. Former US president Barack Obama with 101 million, Trump with 53.1 million and Modi with 43.1 million are among the world’s most followed politicians.

Ranked 23rd worldwide, Modi had edged out Shah Rukh and Bachchan as India’s most followed two years ago.

Bachchan has been the most sensitive about Twitter follower counts. In January, he had jocularly tweeted a threat to delete his account after a fall in numbers. He had just been overtaken by Shah Rukh.

In May, he wondered aloud why his follower base was not increasing despite being extremely active.

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Twitter crackdown axes lakhs of Modi, Trump followers

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