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Twitter Cracks Down on Fake Followers

Twitter users across the world may start to see their amount of followers declining, with the social media platform promising to crack down on fake profiles.

Twitter said Wednesday that it will delete tens of millions of frozen accounts from people's follower lists in part of an effort to build trust with its users. While the changes are expected to roll out immediately, executives said to expect fluctuations in follower counts regularly.

"Though the most significant changes are happening in the next few days, follower counts may continue to change more regularly as part of our ongoing work to proactively identify and challenge problematic accounts," Vijaya Gadde, legal, policy and trust and safety lead at Twitter, wrote in a company blog post.

She explained that Twitter locks certain accounts when it "detects sudden changes in account behavior." The platform then reaches out to those account owners in an effort to validate the account and reset the password. If owners are not able to do so, Twitter "keeps them locked with no ability to log in"

Gadde wrote that those locked accounts will be removed from follower lists across the world this week. "As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down," she said.

The move will impact about six percent of follows on Twitter, with accounts with a high amount of followers feeling the blow the most — meaning everyday Joes likely shouldn't worry too much.

"Most people will see a change of four followers or fewer; others with larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop," Gadde said. "We understand this may be hard for some, but we believe accuracy and transparency make Twitter a more trusted service for public conversation."

The accounts Twitter is planning on wiping out are not necessarily spam or bots, but rather accounts created by real people who cannot confirm that they are the original creator of the profile.

The changes will not impact Twitter's overall user metrics because it does not include locked accounts in its monthly active user or daily active user reports and figures, the platform says.

The changes come a few months after a report from The New York Times revealed that many celebrities, politicians and other public figures had purchased followers that are often fake accounts or bots in an effort to bolster their numbers on social media.

“We don’t want to incentivize the purchase of followers and fake accounts to artificially inflate follower counts, because it’s not an accurate measure of someone’s influence on the platform or influence in the world,” Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president for trust and safety, told The New York Times. “We think it’s a really important and meaningful metric, and we want people to have confidence that these are engaged users that are following other accounts.”

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Wednesday's announcement came after Twitter shares fell earlier this week following a report from the Washington Post that detailed Twitter was cleaning up fake accounts and suspending more than 1 million accounts per day. The company clarified later that those accounts were not included as part of its publicly reported metrics.

Users can expect to see their follower numbers fall beginning on Thursday.