Less than a day after announcing that Elon Musk and Twitter had reached a deal to sell the social media platform to the world’s richest man, suspicions grew as left-wing accounts reported huge losses in followers, while those on the right experienced significant gains. The dip varied by account, with some seeing drops as low as the hundreds, and larger, verified accounts – seeing thousands of followers disappear.
Former President Barak Obama’s account is home to the most followers, He lost 300,000 of his 131 million followers. Pop star Katy Perry with 108 million followers wasn’t far behind, reportedly losing 200K. Star Wars actor, Mark Hamill tweeted:
Weird. I just lost more than 8,000 followers in the last couple of hours. Was it something I said? https://t.co/TS3vwDephc
— Mark Hamill (@MarkHamill) April 25, 2022
It didn’t take long for people to start checking their own follower counts. Numbers range from hundreds to thousands. This raises multiple questions. Is this a sign of things to come under the Musk regime? The great progressive purge?
Twitter dismissed the panic, insisting the fluctuations are purely “organic” in nature and have nothing to do with the sale to Musk. They released this statement:
“While we continue to take action on accounts that violate our spam policy which can affect follower counts, these fluctuations appear to largely be a result of an increase in new account creation and deactivation.”
Ben Collins of NBC News tweeted Tuesday evening:
Pick your celebrity, then pick your right-wing figure, and the results are pretty much the same since Elon Musk's takeover.
And it's not just in America.
Taylor Swift lost 100k followers.
Jair Bolsonaro gained about 90k.https://t.co/gxBWpxq1uG
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) April 27, 2022
Users are skeptical. Bot sweeps and removal of spam accounts aren’t uncommon, but it doesn’t explain the increase among right-wing accounts. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial GOP Congresswoman from Georgia, saw an increase of over 40K on her government account – her personal account is permanently banned for repeatedly posting misinformation and hate speech. Even Fox News’ resident right-wing extremist pundit Laura Ingraham seemed to have doubts that it was random. Weighing in, Ingraham said:
After being magically stuck at 3.9M Twitter followers for a few years, I’m now at 4M. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) April 27, 2022
There’s another noteworthy explanation for the fluctuations: those vowing to leave the app, if – and when – a deal was struck between Musk and Twitter. Musk is insisting that his purchase of Twitter is about “free speech” and nothing more, but the public isn’t convinced. Never missing the opportunity to troll, Musk repeatedly hinted at the restoration of high-profile accounts permanently banned for violating Twitter’s Terms of Service. The collective assumption is that he was hinting about Donald Trump.
Fears were substantiated when, mere moments after singling out Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde in a critical tweet, Musk stans wasted no time jumping in Gadde’s mentions with hateful and vulgar speech. Financial Times’ correspondent Dave Lee calling it out:
I'd imagine every Twitter employee is looking at this and thinking what if they're next. Just a sample: pic.twitter.com/gGGQaOZ4Yj
— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeFT) April 26, 2022
Musk’s deal to buy Twitter isn’t finalized yet, however, and a lot can happen between now and then. Musk may already have broken one of the conditions of the deal with his tweet criticizing Vijaya Gadde. One of the stipulations in the deal says:
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Equity Investor shall be permitted to issue Tweets about the Merger or the transactions contemplated hereby so long as such Tweets do not disparage the Company or any of its Representatives.”
Read the entire contract between Twitter and its pending owner here.
Meanwhile, if you’re a Twitter user, check your follower count and see what happened to you!
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick