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Twitter continues aggressive suspension of unwanted accounts

MANILA, Philippines - Twitter has been on a suspension spree in the past few months with The Washington Post reporting that the social network suspended over 70 million accounts last May and June, on top of the 58 million it suspended in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to data obtained by the Associated Press

Combined, the social network suspended 128 million spammy, fake, dubious or inactive accounts in those periods. But the total number of suspended accounts may be higher, because Twitter suspends accounts on a daily basis, reaching a record rate of 1 million accounts per day in recent months – a rate that Twitter says is a doubling of their suspension rate back in October 2017.  

This month, the company also swept locked accounts, which are accounts that may have been once controlled by an actual human but cannot be confirmed whether the original account creator still has access to and control of it. This led to a decrease in followers to high profile accounts including Barack Obama, who lost 2 million of his 104 million followers. With the numerical loss, however, comes the benefit of having a higher quality following comprised of more real, active users. 

The aggressive crackdown against abusive users, suspicious accounts and locked accounts is Twitter’s response to the wide criticism it received in the wake of the Russian disinformation campaign during the 2016 US presidential elections. (READ: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet)

The continuing sweeps are also in line with Twitter's belief that by cleaning up their network and community, they'll financially benefit in the future. Twitter takes some stock market beating whenever news of account deletion and clean-ups take place. Its stock recently dipped by 10% after the news of its sweeps of locked accounts broke, but has since recovered.

Twitter's business model is advertising-centric, relying on user count much like other tech giants Facebook and Google, but Twitter has shown some willingness to take on what it hopes are short-term losses for long-term user loyalty on account of a more sound online community. Twitter, in a blog post last month, stated that they are ensuring their users have access to “credible, relevant, and high-quality information” on the platform.

Del Harvey, Twitter vice president for trust and safety, also said that the account suspensions has actually not had “a ton of impact” to the number of active users, – estimated at around 336 million – as one might expect. She added that the millions of accounts suspended were not even tweeting regularly.

Twitter's Q2 2018 earnings report, expected on July 27, will give a more complete picture as to how the clean-up has affected their bottomline. – Rappler.com

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.

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