On July 12th, Twitter launched their announced “purge”. Stripping roughly six percent of all the followers on the platform. Barack Obama lost millions, so did Katy Perry.
The stated aim of the exercise was to increase “accuracy” of follower counts, thereby making them more “meaningful”. This was announced in Twitter’s official explanation on July 11th, the day before the “purge”:
Twitter has claimed the power to simply force people to stop following certain accounts – they claim to only target “locked” accounts (this isn’t actually true, as we’ll see later), but even if it were…the grounds for “locking” an account are purely subjective.
“Unusual activity” is the cited as the reason accounts are locked, and “unusual activity” can mean whatever they want it to mean.
Whether or not YOU are considered a real person is now entirely up to people who have never met you, judging whether or not your behaviour is “unusual”.
We know, from previous experience, how well this works, considering provably real people such as Ian56 and PartisanGirl were listed as “bots” simply because of the opinions they held. This wasn’t an accident, of course, but even if it were it completely undermines the idea Twitter has any idea who is real and who is not, and totally shuts down the argument they should be allowed to judge whose behaviour is “usual” or otherwise.
Essentially, twitter have granted themselves the power to forcibly prevent people seeing certain news, facts or opinions on their platform. This is the antithesis of free speech.
Twitter claimed these measures were put in place to shut down “bots”, reduce “paid followers” and take out “fake accounts”, but does this explanation hold water? Not really.
We at OffGuardian lost 1580 twitter followers during the great purge – over 15% of our total, and certainly more than the “four or fewer” or “roughly 6%” suggested by Twitter’s pre-emptive explanation.
They weren’t paid followers, they weren’t fake accounts and obviously 1/6th of our followers aren’t bots. But that’s not the important point – the important point is that they are all still there and all still following other people.
As you can see from this redacted screen grab of our twitter stats…
…these victims of the “purge” are all still active, and they all still following other people. Why? Who decided which of their follows should be stripped away, and what were grounds for that decision-making process?
This also proves Twitters claim of only purging “locked” accounts is a lie: As you can see, OffGuardian follows some of our purged followers, and can confirm they are active, real people.
So what then was the point? Questions emerge:
- If the purged followers were all either dead accounts, fake people or paid followers why not simply delete the accounts?
- Why did Twitter claim to only be targeting “locked accounts” when a simple stats check proves this to be a lie?
- Why stop these accounts from following some accounts, but let them continue to follow others?
- What criteria were used to make this decision?
Twitter has a history of dishonestly employing tools to limit free speech on their platform, from shadowbanning, to putting certain accounts behind warnings or “temporarily restricting” accounts for being “abusive”. All of these measures were introduced within the last year, and all have seemed to disproportionately affect anti-establishment figures, alternate news sites or independent journalists.
Until proven otherwise, it seems the Twitter Purge is nothing but an excuse to shut down communication on the internet and limit free speech. Another nail in Twitter’s coffin.
If you are an independent journalist, or work for an alternative news or media organisation, and have evidence you were disproportionately affected by Twitter’s “purge”, please contact us via our submissions page.
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