Big Twitter Accounts See Follower Numbers Drop After Fake-User Purge

UPDATED: As expected, Twitter’s elimination of “locked” users accounts from public follower counts has resulted in a decline for many users — including millions lost for the biggest celebs on the platform, like Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

One of the biggest losers seems to have been Twitter’s own primary account (@Twitter), which shed 7.5 million fake accounts to drop 12% Thursday, from 62.85 million earlier in the morning to 55.35 million as of 2:45 p.m. ET. By Friday morning, that was down to 55.1 million.

By comparison, the decline of other large accounts has been smaller. The 100 most-followed Twitter accounts saw an average drop in followers of 2% on Thursday, according to social-analytics firm Keyhole, with a median decline of 734,000 followers.

Singer Katy Perry, who has the most-followed account on Twitter, lost 2.8 million followers through Friday at 8 a.m. ET, dropping 2.6% to 106.8 million followers. Follower counts for Justin Bieber and Rihanna fell 2.5%, Ellen DeGeneres dropped 2.6%, Taylor Swift fell 2.7%, and Lady Gaga declined 3.2%.

Barack Obama’s (@barackobama) total followers shrank by 2.36 million, or 2.3%, to 101.3 million by Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump), possibly Twitter’s most controversial major user, saw his follower count drop by about 300,000, from 53.4 million to 53.1 million, on Thursday. (His account stood at 53.07 million as of Friday a.m.)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s (@jack) follower count dropped by 226,000 (5.4%) to 3.99 million as of Friday.

For the record, followers of Variety‘s Twitter account (@Variety) declined 2.2%, from 2.15 million Thursday to 2.10 million early Friday.

On Wednesday, Twitter said it was making the change in order to boost the credibility of follower-count numbers and improve transparency. The change in follower counts doesn’t affect the active user totals Twitter tracks and reports on a quarterly basis to investors, according to the company.

The majority of Twitter users will see a reduction of four followers or fewer, but those with larger follower counts will see a bigger drop, the company said. Twitter began culling locked accounts from follower figures Thursday, and as the process continues the numbers will likely decline further. All told, Twitter expects the number of followers to decline around 6% platform-wide by the time it’s completed the purge.

The public number of followers on Twitter is a measure of relative popularity on the service — and by cutting out bots and other bogus accounts from the totals, the company is trying to establish it as a more accurate reflection of how many actual humans follow a given account.

“This specific update is focused on followers because it is one of the most visible features on our service and often associated with account credibility,” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, wrote in a blog post.

Twitter says it locks accounts when it detects “sudden changes in account behavior,” like tweeting a large volume of unsolicited replies or mentions — in other words, signs that it’s engaging in spam or bot-like activity.

No. of Twitter Followers for 10 Most-Followed Accounts

As of 7/12
11:30 a.m. ET
As of 7/12
2:45 p.m. ET
As of 7/13
8 a.m. ET
% change through Friday
Katy Perry (@katyperry) 109.61 million 108.11 million 106.80 million -2.6%
Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) 106.71 million 105.31 million 104.02 million -2.5%
Barack Obama (@BarackObama) 103.63 million 101.50 million 101.27 million -2.3%
Rihanna (@rihanna) 89.0 million 88.44 million 86.76 million -2.5%
Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) 85.57 million 83.27 million 83.24 million -2.7%
Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) 78.97 million 77.47 million 76.46 million -3.2%
Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) 78.09 million 76.10 million 76.06 million -2.6%
Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) 74.60 million 73.37 million 73.39 million -1.6%
YouTube (@YouTube) 72.39 million 70.39 million 70.37 million -2.8%
Twitter (@Twitter) 62.85 million 55.35 million 55.10 million -12.3%

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