×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
July 11, 2018
Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

If your Twitter followers start going missing on Thursday, it probably wasn't because of a bad tweet.

Twitter will purge tens of millions of fake or suspicious accounts starting Thursday, The New York Times reports. The move comes in the wake of a January Times investigation into a follower farm, which Twitter executives say inspired the company to crack down on fake accounts.

Since follower counts lead to influence in the real world, aspiring influencers, businesspeople, and politicians often purchased followers en masse, the Times says. Advertisers who sponsored posts with these supposedly influential users soon realized not every follower was a real person, and they weren't reaching the numbers they were paying for. Meanwhile, real followers' influence was watered down by bots and phony accounts.

So when the Times' January investigation exposed the creation of and business behind these fake accounts, Twitter finally took action. It started by locking millions of accounts suspected to be automated, racking up millions of suspensions by May. These locked accounts, which can't interact with other accounts, weren't counted in Twitter's active user numbers reported to investors. But they still showed up in follower counts, per the Times.

Now, Twitter has reached the next step. It'll remove suspicious users from follower counts, but not completely erase the accounts. Twitter told the Times it plans to remove about 6 percent of the site's total combined followers — a number that could be in the tens of millions.

Read more about Twitter's big step at The New York Times, and check out the investigation that inspired it here. Kathryn Krawczyk