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Twitter purged bots last night and conservatives are furious

Andrew Wyrich

They say the deletion of accounts is a suppression of free speech.

A number of far-right users of Twitter complained on Wednesday morning that they had lost hundreds or thousands of followers, accusing the social media company of banning accounts that agreed with them.

Soon enough, #TwitterLockout began trending—with those on the right claiming the company was suppressing free speech, while others suspecting the disappearing accounts may have been “bots” or “artificial followers.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily Dot regarding the sudden disappearance of some accounts.

The apparent #TwitterLockout comes just days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed the elaborate ways Russian actors working with a Russian “troll farm” meddled in the 2016 election using social media.

Twitter has a well-known problem with fake accounts.

Following a January report in the New York Times about the business practices of a company called Devumi, which allegedly sold fake followers to athletes, entertainers, and others to inflate their sense of popularity on Twitter, the company said it would “continue to fight hard to tackle any malicious automation on our platform as well as false or spam accounts.”

Late last year, conservative Twitter users also went into a frenzy after the company updated its terms of service and suspended accounts in what became known as the “Twitter purge.”

Accounts that were suspended during the “purge” included white nationalists and other accounts that spread hateful messages, such as Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right group that President Donald Trump retweeted several anti-Muslim videos from.

The Daily Dot has reported on the vast number of “egg” or suspected “artificial followers” that make up a large number of the president’s Twitter following. It appears, however, that Trump’s account was not affected by Wednesday’s #TwitterLockout. In fact, his following appears to have grown.

As of Wednesday morning, Trump has 48.1 million followers on Twitter. On Tuesday, before the alleged #TwitterLockout, he had 48 million followers.

While conservatives lamented the loss of followers, other Twitter users poked fun at their extreme reaction.

Update 1:15pm CT, Feb. 12: A Twitter spokesperson told the Daily Dot that it enforces its rules “without political bias.”

“As part of our ongoing work in safety, we identify suspicious account behaviors that indicate automated activity or violations of our policies around having multiple accounts, or abuse,” a company spokesperson said in an email. “We also take action on any accounts we find that violate our terms of service, including asking account owners to confirm a phone number so we can confirm a human is behind it.”

The spokesperson said the efforts were part of a process to make “Twitter safer and healthier for everyone.”

Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).