#Twitter purge: leaders lose followers

Twitter’s decision to delete locked accounts this week has cost India’s political leaders lakhs of followers, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handle seeing a decrease of over 2 lakh followers as on Friday evening. Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s account lost over 13,000 followers and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal lost more than 90,000.

On Wednesday, Twitter announced in a statement that it would be deleting the accounts that had been locked, leading to a fall in follower counts this week. The social media site said that over the years, it had locked accounts if it detected “sudden changes in account behaviour”, including tweeting of a large number of unsolicited replies or mentions, sharing misleading links, or if a large number of accounts blocked the account after mentioning them.

As on Friday evening, Mr. Modi’s personal account, @narendramodi, had 4.31 crore followers, down from 4.33 crore on Thursday. The account of Mr. Kejriwal, @ArvindKejriwal, had lost over 90,000 followers from 1.39 crore on Thursday to 1.38 crore on Friday evening. Mr. Gandhi’s account, @RahulGandhi, lost over 13,000 followers from 72.23 lakh on Thursday to 72.21 lakh on Friday.

Asked about the decrease in followers, BJP sources said there had been a 0.3% to 0.4% decline in the total number of followers of Mr. Modi’s account.

For the AAP, which welcomed the move by Twitter, the official handle had seen a decrease of about 40,000 followers, the head of the party’s social media and IT, Ankit Lal, said.

“There has been a decrease of around 1 lakh followers for Mr. Kejriwal’s account and about 40,000 for the AAP handle. This is just the beginning. When Twitter starts deleting bot [accounts controlled by software] accounts next, then the follower counts will decrease a lot. We believe that bots tilt the balance in favour of a certain party,” Mr. Lal said.

Asked to comment on the drop in followers of Mr. Gandhi’s account, the Congress’s communications chief, Randeep Surjewala, said: “Our understanding from the Twitter statement is that accounts that have been inactive for over a month have been removed without verifying if they are fake or real accounts.”

In its statement on Wednesday, Twitter had distinguished between locked accounts and bot or spam accounts.

“In most cases, these [locked] accounts were created by real people, but the platform cannot confirm that the original person who opened the account still has control and access to it,” Twitter had said adding that spam or bot accounts on the other hand showed “spammy” behaviour from the beginning.

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