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Twitter to Purge Locked Accounts From Follower Counts, Warns of Potential ‘Significant Drop’ in Followers

Company says the change will not affect publicly reported user metrics

Twitter this week will remove locked accounts — those that are disabled because of suspicious activity — from follower-count tallies, a move the company said could result in some users seeing a big drop in their base of followers.

According to Twitter, the removal of locked accounts from followers will not affect its average active user counts, which are key metrics Wall Street uses to track growth. Users with locked accounts that have not reset their passwords in more than a month are not included in monthly active user (MAU) or daily active user (DAU) counts.

The company said it’s making the change, which will start taking effect Thursday (July 11), as part of its efforts to boost trust in and transparency about the service.

“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.

While eliminating locked accounts from follower totals won’t affect MAU or DAU totals, Twitter’s efforts to shut down other kinds of accounts — like those that violate its terms of use — potentially could, Gadde acknowledged.

A recent report that Twitter has accelerated the rate it has been suspending fake accounts prompted its stock to drop this week, as investors feared Twitter’s total user base could shrink as a result. The company suspended more than 70 million fake accounts this past May and June, and has continued to delete more than 1 million accounts per day into July, according to a Washington Post report July 6.

On Monday, Twitter CFO Ned Segal sought to clarify the report, saying that most accounts the company removes aren’t included in our reported metrics. “If we removed 70M accounts from our reported metrics, you would hear directly from us,” he said in a tweet. “This article reflects us getting better at improving the health of the service.”

With the purge of locked accounts from follower counts, most people will see a reduction of four followers or fewer, according to Gadde. However, Twitter users with larger follower counts “will experience a more significant drop,” she added. “We understand this may be hard for some, but we believe accuracy and transparency make Twitter a more trusted service for public conversation.”

Twitter locks accounts when it detects “sudden changes in account behavior,” like tweeting a large volume of unsolicited replies or mentions, according to Gadde. In other words, signs that a Twitter account is engaging in spam or bot-like activity. Twitter also will lock an account if it detects email/password combinations from other services have been posted online. Once an account is locked, its owner cannot tweet (or like or retweet posts) and it is not served ads until a Twitter user has validated that they have control of the account.

For the first quarter of 2018, Twitter reported that average monthly active users grew 3%, to 336 million, representing a net increase of 6 million sequentially and beating Wall Street forecasts. Most of that was overseas: In the U.S., Twitter had 69 million MAUs in the first quarter (up about 1 million from the prior quarter).

Twitter is scheduled to report Q2 results July 27 before the market opens.

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