Battling Fake Accounts, Twitter to Slash Millions of Followers

Twitter will begin removing tens of millions of suspicious accounts from follower numbers, signaling a major new effort to fight fraud and restore trust on the platform.


Comments: 106

  1. I suspect this will drop Trump's followers most of all!

  2. yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing the revised numbers.

  3. It's a start! I look forward to the day in which verified accounts can no longer lie in public. The amount of misinformation shared on Twitter seems deliberate. It's hard to see how lying, or, say, calling a sitting president a secret Muslim born in Kenya, benefits shareholders or the general public in any way.

  4. It certainly doesn't benefit the general public, or our nation at all. However, there is tremendous profit motive. Just look at how media outlets like Fox News, various conspiracy sites and talk radio use and amplify misinformation, innuendo and outright lies, often on Twitter. Their customers are craving for it, and the fake accounts amplify it. These media outlets viewership goes up when these outrageous stories are reported and "analyzed", so advertising revenue goes up, and the shareholders reap a benefit. It is a horrible cycle that keeps repeating itself, making America, as well as other nations, less great, less honorable and weaker for it.

  5. This probably won't affect me. After 2 years, I still have only 35 followers.

  6. Ha ha! Nice one, thanks for the humorous take on it. By the way, you got 1 more follower than me!

  7. You must have patience. I'm killin it with 42. Been a member since 2009.

  8. Great!

    Please begin with the Trumpy trolls and bots broadcasting from Russia.

    It's past time the Russian collusion ends.

  9. About time, they should also remove the Twitterer in Chief!

  10. They could start with our feckless leader. It will be fun to watch his numbers tank.

  11. While a step in the right direction, this move by Twitter is inadequate. The fundamental challenge is the allure of anonymity looking like actual people, governments and businesses. There are just too many ways to fake it and deceive the public. Sadly, we need more regulations.

  12. Yes! Please take a step to cut the fake social media. It is a powerful weapon hurting our democracy. Thank you Twitter.

  13. no need to take sides to see the importance of eliminating artificially inflated follower counts. congrats Nyt for the investigation that found the grey market

  14. Too little too late for me.

  15. If Twitter is serious about taking this step, it will cut into a huge percentage of the president's followers. I'm amazed that millions of Trump's obviously fake followers haven't already been deleted. It may seem like an unimportant action but how many of those false accounts are connected to retweeting bots and have already created false, social-media-fueled approval of his words and actions? Twitter may or may not have blood on its hands when it comes to the rise of this abhorrent personality but it certainly has played a huge part. This is probably a classic case of too little, too late.

  16. Great news from Nick Confessore and Gabriel Dance. Twitter's action is a big help, but it does show the deep lack of credibility of that platform. Of course twitterphiles just love it.

    Next, they should block Trump, speaking of a trolling account. But if they did that, we'd have no window into the opaque Trump.

    It's like forbidding the eccentric Captain Quig, played by the truly great Humphrey Bogart, of the ship Caine, from giving his perverse orders. We'd never know how crazy he was.

    Trump's is an exception to Twitter's purge of bad accounts. Still, he draws the dysfunctional that are encouraged by Russian trolls. Trump's remains the account that is allowed to troll Twitter users.

    Failing that, Twitter should now be an immensely cleaner platform on which to communicate.

  17. As a glutton for punishment, I tend to read the tweets that come from the personal account of our president. Anyone who is familiar with that account knows that there are a large number of automated and fake followers who use it as a springboard to push various narratives. If I don't see a dent in that suspicious activity, then I'll know that Twitter is not serious about this move and that it's just another public relations stunt.

    In my own opinion, Twitter should really embrace the use of a nominal "cool down" period between tweets to further curb the use of bots. Restrictions on how much one account can tweet within a certain set period of time is another necessary step in order to take back the platform for its intended purpose. Right now, much of what is seen is automated drivel padding a post with engineered replies within seconds of it being made. The supposed democratic potential of social media is too often lost in the manufactured din.

  18. Most of the obvious TrumpTroll accounts are painfully obvious: they have a name like "DeplorableKate" were created recently, and have thousands of followers after mere months. The other type, hacked accounts, are also pretty obvious: they have a couple tweets from years ago, no activity for years, and then suddenly post 40+ tweets a day, every day, nonstop.

    I'm a software but not even a good one, and I figured this out. One must wonder how engineers at Twitter, who I guarantee wouldn't hire me as I don't have the "skills," have been chronically incapable of identifying or addressing this problem.

  19. Although it's a step in the right direction, more active moderation is required to stop the spread of "alternative facts".

  20. About time! The platform is a cesspool.

  21. The fake Walkaway that's suddenly everywhere --and so obviously fake, needs to be removed from Facebook, Twitter, youtube. One youtube video even has a not that it's funded by the Russian government.

  22. After the 2016 Election "Meddling", how can we really trust Twitter and Facebook again?

  23. Simple answer: we can't and I won't.

  24. This is just their justification to purge conservatives and libertarians.

  25. Just google 'purchase twitter followers'. You'll learn it's a real thing.

  26. It's maddening that the New York Times had to uncover this practice, and that the Masters of the Universe at Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook didn't find out about it themselves.

    They could all be wearing Melania's jacket, because that's probably what the problem is (except for the "do u?" part.)

    Thanks to the Times reporters who exposed this scam.

  27. This is good news. Twitter should block Trump and the bots that follow him. Russia would be very displeased which is all the more reason to do it

  28. This action, or perhaps reaction, is merely a corporate marketing effort. As individuals we have already lost the technology war; much of the citizenry has been tagged, categorized, dna'd, face recognition'd and accounts copied onto thousands of servers. Eugenics seems so quaint in hindsight.

    Huxley's foretelling is upon us.

  29. "The market for fakes was also hurting Twitter with advertisers"

    Ah, the real reason they are bothering to do this.

  30. The most significant step they could take, of course, is to remove the account of one particular user. Is there a bigger spreader of fake news, lies, and Russian and white supremacist propaganda than the Tweeter-in-Chief? Seriously. This move loses all credibility if they don't do the most obvious one first.

  31. How does this article not talk about how many millions of Trump's followers are fake accounts?

    The best part is that Obama still has millions of followers than Trump. Trump must hate that.

  32. Great news... good job Twitter!

  33. And just think: somewhere at Twitter there's a 20-something white boy carefully sure that none of @realDonaldTrump's follower count is affected... for $140,000/year.

  34. I heard this before with FB. Nothing happened and I just read yesterday they had a much better financial quarter. People are addicted and the 'media' still spread false information in pithy doses.

  35. i suppose good start, but not allowing hate speech, bullying, and name calling is what is really needed. of course that would mean deleting #Bully, M r Trump... what a more pleasant world it would be..

    no more Twitter attacks when it was raining and trump was bored because he can't get on the golf course.... or when he just watched Fox News... Twitter doesn't have the courage - to set a good example

  36. Years ago, twitter refused to close a fake account impersonating my mom,even when I pointed out that its tweets were in a language she did not speak!

    Let's hope twitter remember the lesson it has been taught.

  37. I hope this effort is more capable than Sylvester the cat trying to get Tweety bird.

  38. Twitter - how about shutting down Donald Trump?

    So sick of taxpayer money going to him playing with his electronics!

  39. This is good. Very good. I read yesterday where YouTube is starting to place accurate news next to fake. IMHO, that isn’t enough, it still allows those who are grief and drama tourists to promulgate such nonsense as #walkaway, Melania is abused, pizzagate, and other complete swill. All social media needs a deep purge. Sounds like Twitter might win the opening salvo, here. It’s time. Thanks, Grey Lady, for doing excellent journalism. Our democracy depends on it.

  40. Melania IS abused. She just happens to be a willing victim who also parrots the vile birthery and bigotry of her "husband" (she doesn't really care, do U?).

  41. Except for uses by necessary services that use alerts, like police departments, I've always found Twitter to be a waste of time and am embarrassed for people who seems to live their lives for it.

  42. Twitter suspended my account late May for being "compromised by a user or service not associated with Twitter." The process for reinstating it didn't work after several attempts and I just finally gave up and deleted the Twitter app. I never saw evidence that my Twitter identity was stolen and misused. To me, Twitter is a defective platform that cannot discern good from bad, both in terms of speakers and speech.

  43. I immediately dismiss the person, organization, or message by any of those who even have a Twitter account. My view is, if you have a Twitter account, there is something wrong with you. That includes this newspaper, just for starters.

  44. I hope Twitter starts with the followers of DJT. There is no possible and/or legitimate way that he has that many followers.

  45. So how many followers does @RealDonaldTrump actually have, after you subtract Russian bots, alt-right troll accounts, and fakes purchased just to inflate the Trump brand?

  46. Don't stop with Twitter! I am an active Instagram user (I manage a daily photo challenge and spend hours daily looking at pictures!) As a result, I have concluded that I have the magic number of followers to be targeted as a victim of supremely suspicious users.
    Oddly, the formula is always the same for the new follower. He's an attractive man with a gallery of 6-8 pictures of him with a baby, in a car, holding a kitten, kissing his mother. "He" has already followed 1000+ people by the time he gets to me. I hope people on Instagram are aware of this scam. I can only imagine from where this bogus and highly dangerous practice stems. REPORT AS SCAM! Don't be shy about it. I can assure Instagrammers that they should not hesitate to REPORT! Blocking does nothing with any consequence; it is only blocking one correspondence link. And I do receive periodic oddly worded messages from Instagram that whatever was happening has be quelled. I'm sure I'm just the tip of the iceberg.
    I look for changes in the formula that is so obvious ... sometimes it's a woman, sometimes the account name appears with a new slant. These people do get unknowing victimes to blindly follow them and I can only hope that this warning is read by enough people to become extremely suspicious on Instagram.

  47. Only tangled twits tabulate tons of tarnished tweeters to totally testify terribly tawdry tales of Trumpian tantrums and terroristic tellings are truly true.

  48. WOW...good job!

  49. Trump has been the best thing for twitty and they know it. Unfortunately it’s therefore the prime virus they can’t deactivate. Just enjoy the ride.

  50. Great News! I worked for my 4 followers the old fashioned way: They chose me by accident. I can't stand this Internet Sludge that cheats the System! Get rid of all these losers that steal other people's identity too!

  51. In Trumpworld it is hard to find something in which to take pride. I have never Twittered or is the proper usage Tweeted. I just don't have the interest, the thumbs or the inclination. So don't you worry Twitter, you won't have to delete anything on my behalf. It is possible that some evil agent has figured out how to hack my nonexistent account.

    Personally, I never thought anybody should be interested in what I would have to say in the bathroom after processing a bucket of KFC and a few double cheeseburgers (Not in my diet anyway,sorry Colonel and Ronald) Rule 1: Wash your hands before you Tweet.

    Policy and Democracy by Tweet Storms, is this the new normal? RAW

  52. Oh, Corporate Twitterfolk: PLEASE commence your commendable resolve to purge Cyberspace of the most ubiquitous accounts of thoroughgoing FRAUD, by including anything and everything with reference to #DonaldTrump, #WhiteHouse, #theRealDonaldTrump, or #POTUS. Those malevolent Twitter posts have singlehandedly turned the very word "twitter" into a trigger of disgust and fury. Ivan Pavlov knew what he was talking about, and I'm confident that Corporate-Twitter realize it's the frauds of the world mucking up your otherwise remarkable and valued public communication platform.

  53. Since Donald J. Trump is an avid Twitter user, Twitter especially must check the veracity of all Tweets coming from that source and those of his followers. Fake news and fake accounts from a fraudulent president.

  54. Finally someone's addressing resident Trump's claim of election fraud.

  55. I don't do Twitter. It is a cesspool of hate and nastiness. I also hate when news publications write stories that are mostly comprised of tweets.

    That said, it pleases me greatly to think that the Imperial Birther will lose some of his followers. His tiny ego will rage about that, I am sure.

  56. I had a Twitter account for five years because my agent said it would help my professional profile. (It didn't.) Then I got sucked into the nasty vortex of political commentary and no good came of that. I went cold Turkey and haven't missed it at all.

  57. Actually, if used correctly, Twitter is a font of useful information, and a way of connecting with folks who share your world view. It’s quite easy to avoid the nastiness. Just don’t follow those people. Especially, don’t follow Trump.

  58. Too little too late.

    Thank you for ruining America and proving once again, that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

  59. This is only too true!

  60. Twitter decided my account was suspicious because I use a German sim card while overseas and switch back to my US one when I come home. They have not responded to requests to restore my account when I explained. I get there is a problem. But real people get caught in the cross hairs including me with my 30 odd followers.

  61. First is this. Twitter exists solely for the collection of data and selling it to corporate and political for monetary gain. The world existed without Twitter before its creation, and would be a better place if it did not exist. Secondly, I make it point not to be a client of Twitter since I know no good would come out me being a member, and it serves no purpose for me. Thirdly, how disconcerting it is that people will take the unfiltered, and many time incorrect, the information that is posted in limited communications. People must be made cognizant of the fact that what is being tweeted to them cannot be believed unless it is your mother telling you what is for dinner. And maybe even that may not be true.

  62. Twitter will always house hate and misdirection. Nothing the company can do will ever be able to wrangle that. And as seen here by the comments, bragging about how one has never used and never would use Twitter, also seems to be important to many, and just as useless. Social media will influence everyone, even people who refuse to participate, unless of course they choose not to speak and interact with most of the rest of the population.

  63. Certainly hope this includes Mr Trump as about 1/3 of his followers are bots and fake accounts. Many of them never tweet, some just retweet or like his tweets. I have been checking on some of them just to see what they do. They actually number in the millions.

  64. The same clean-up needs to be done at youtube.com, imo. Why isn't there a standard for protection from "virtual accounts and 'bots" that this industry can use.

    It would be nice to know if a user on facebook actually has a face...and that the conversation I'm engaging in is not just some elaborate Eliza database intended just to waste my time.

    Is it live or is it Memorex? Social media sites ought to clearly distinguish real from virtual or they should lose users.

  65. Ok NYT - please list the top 50 or so who loose the most fake followers.

  66. I felt that Twitter and Facebook were idiotic from day one. Nothing that has happened in the ensuing years has changed my opinion.

  67. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, what-have-you, I've yet to see any benefit to their existence except that the stupid, thoughtless and bigoted, by their own hand, announce themselves as such.

    I am fascinated, compelled interested, joyful, pained at, sometimes moroseful and griefstricken at, my life. It's all interesting - to me.

    I don't presume, however, that you want to know, or are interested in the hourly details of my life or my observations, so, accordingly, I have no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts.

    You also lead the same varied, rich existence - to you. Unless we're conversing utilizing our ears, tongue, vocal cords and eyes, I don't want, or need to know the details of it by social media.

    Yeah, Granma, so what's your point? True, my absence from social media doesn't matter. It doesn't make a quark's dent in the billions owned by Big Social Media.

    That I know I don't contribute, however, is very meaningful- to me.

  68. They really never thought Hillary would lose.

  69. There's a guy on Twitter impersonating a president of the United States.

  70. It doesn't matter that Trump has millions of fake followers since media disseminates his tweets to the whole world.

  71. Oh, goody, hope they delete trump while they are at it!

  72. In recent months, Twitter has taken a number of steps to improve what Ms. Harvey and other company officials call “healthy conversation” on the platform...

    If Twitter truly wants "healthy conversation" on its platform, it will immediately lock down Trump's account.

    His spewing of hate and lies is not healthy. And add in fake followers, and his "base" feels a home for their ignorance and bigotry.

  73. Trump breaks the rules for Twitter every day. He posts lies, things Twitter knows are lies. He makes incendiary remarks, and should be barred from tweeting altogether. Of course, he's responsible for expanding their position and value. BUT, it would be doing the country so much good not to have to deal with his insane antics on a daily basis in that venue. Let him proselytize on Fox, we need to stop watching it and we need to convince others.including this orgaNization, the NYTimes, to stop giving the blow by blow on every hurtful, hate-filled thing he does. Not being able to spread his vitriol so easily will push him over the edge.
    Part of me thinks it would be dangerous to not know all of the disgusting and repulsive things he says and does, but even though we're aware of his atrocious behavior and actions, we're powerless to stop them. STOP giving him the power to destroy our hope. Go to once a week press briefings, let's get our attention focused on defeating the evil that has crept into our democracy.

  74. The real solution here is one that no social media company has been willing to implement: require verified identities of all users. With that you eliminate fake accounts, hate speech, trolls, commercial plants, and all the other abuses that come with anonymity. It's not that hard to do - services like Global ID (https://www.globalid.net) do it. But the companies don't want to because they drive their valuation on ever rising user numbers, false as they may be. Twitter is actually the exception now, and that is reasonably bold. But this is something the government could help with. It should not be a restriction on free speech to require the speaker to identify themselves.

  75. Better close out Trump's account. The bots used to boost his numbers, his threatening and bullying behavior, his unrepentant criticism of other leaders, entertainment folks, elected officials, and so much more is unacceptable. Be true to your word, Twitter. Get rid of his account!

  76. I would argue it is a good start. Ban politicians next.

  77. It's an easy thing to do and realize which accounts are nothing more than bots for malicious intent.

    If an account within a month has 100,000 followers, yet has made only a dozen comments, then duh, it is not real.

    Its all about the clicks and the benjamins.

  78. The primary benefit of social media is what I read/see/listen to/get led to, not what I say.

  79. How about fake accounts and fake news on Facebook? When this is all done, there will be a reckoning and FB executives better retain all their emails, texts and Whats App messaging. They will be gaining lots of frequent flier miles going to Washington to testify before Congress.

  80. Patriotic Americans will cancel their Twitter accounts and boycott Twitter until Twitter deletes the Twitter account of @realDonaldTrump.

  81. No they won’t. They’ll just continue to laugh at people who take themselves much, much too seriously...

  82. A lying President has unfettered access to millions. Who would have thunk it? And Twitter unlike Snopes is a tool for him. So what is the good of banning fake accounts and allowing a fake President access? He does more damage with his lies than the Russians who elected him.

  83. Good! I'm so sick of all the junk on so many forums.

  84. Oh goody! With any luck they'll take away Trump's accounnt, he will find it impossible to "govern"and resign.

  85. Harassment, stalking, fake accounts, Russian bots, terrorist communications network... really people? It's time to quit twitter and punish it for all its awfulness.

    What, exactly, does it take to convince its users they are enabling evil?

  86. Sounds like you don't use Twitter. As a historian, I gain much from Twitter and participating historians. The power of Twitter is real, and I love it.

    For all it's 'awfulness', don't you think the fake accounts, bots and networks would take advantage of the next forum that pops up?

  87. Twitter must know, and acknowledge, that many of the President's Tweets are false, or misleading, or just plain slanderous. That they allow this barrage to continue says volumes about the corporate policies in this period, and will end badly for them.

  88. I find Twitter to be invaluable in the financial field, specifically stock trading. Great people and a very helpful environment. Vis-à-vis what Trump says in his tweets: it’s no one’s business. I find many of them to be very humorous. What I don’t find funny are the comments regarding Trump when the whole thrust of the article is fake followers on Twitters. Give it a rest, please. He’s going to be president for the next six years.

  89. Let me get this straight. Are you saying what Trump tweets is no one's business? Because if you are, then why is he tweeting? That's the whole point, right?

  90. I have a different forecast than yours:

    1. Trump will not serve out his current term.

    2. His removal from office will have nothing to do with the number of followers he has, fake or otherwise.

    3. Indictments of his family and campaign staff will not mention the word Twitter.

  91. Why tens of millions? Just the right one is all that’s necessary. Hope twitter is never asked to do brain surgery.

  92. Can't wait to see the reaction when our tweeter-in-chief's fan base drops by 50+%

  93. I took a screenshot of DJT's twitter acct today so I can see how much it falls by Friday.

    There are troll accts on both Twitter and Facebook and I have run across several of them.

    If they have no friends(or very few) on FB I consider it a troll acct. On Twitter it is harder to determine was is real and what is a troll acct.

    I wish t was easier to sort out the bots and trolls from the humans.

  94. The Courts have said Trump cannot block any follower; the circle comes around that Twitter cannot then block Trump.

    More importantly, who cares about any of this, excepting of course those making billions on Twitter while wrapping it all up nicely into great democratic tool of free speech. 9.99999% of the trillions of characters transmitted by twitter are just garbage anyhow.

  95. If you had read the article, you would see there is nothing about 'blocking' real accounts - such as Trump's. It is about removing bot accounts and other types of fakes.

  96. The one account that needs to be removed is @realDonaldTrump

  97. Of course, Twitter, being as hypocritical as any other tech company, will not do that. I have read their lame excuse for not doing so. Basically, they say that "world leaders" are above their terms of service. When did Trump qualify as a "world leader"? Perhaps I missed it.

  98. Here’s another hint. If you are on Twitter mobile, don’t use the Twitter App. Use Echofon. No “promoted tweets”, no videos starting automatically, no annoying “who to follow” suggestions and no curating of your Twitter stream. You can do that yourself with lists. Also, you can do real RTs.. not those automated anonymous ones. The Twitter App is it’s own worst enemy. But of course “monetization” is everything..

  99. Never look at Twitter myself - even the name sounds juvenile. I hope our next President does not Twitter!

  100. Twitter is only deleting these fake accounts because the media exposed them. Don’t imagine for a minute they would have cared in the least otherwise. Corporations are profit-speaking automatons. They can’t be embarrassed or shamed from within. Only governments can force them to behave responsibly thru regulatory frameworks, but corporations have anticipated this threat and corrupted good governance and our elected leaders are bought and owned and unable to act independently. Attacking efforts to promote breast feeding on behalf formula manufacturers is but one manifestation of this.

  101. Do we know what adjustment advertisers made in determining what they would pay to place ads where some large or small fraction of the ads went to fake accounts? I wonder if they have a different idea about how large the dilution factor is?

  102. The crackdown that occurs way after investors were duped. Follow-bots have been widely known about for almost a decade-where was this response earlier? It was nowhere, as it was then advantageous to Twitter’s form valuation.

  103. Twitter - what's negative is censored, even if it's real:

    I was foster parent, and created an account, and posted real interactions that I'd had with caseworkers, bio-parents, and state agencies, but no names, so no breach of privacy, and they locked my account. Then I searched for caseworkers, and found absolutely nothing negative on Twitter about caseworkers. That's NOT real. I suspect when a caseworker sees something that IS negative, they flag the account, and Twitter takes it down. It doesn't matter that I only posted what was real, when real is negative, it's censored.

  104. Fake Twitter accounts are a dime a dozen. Same with FB. They can eliminate some but they will shortly be replaced by new fake ones. Like trying to hold back an ocean tide, it's redundant.