Twitter on Tuesday sought to tamper down a theory that went viral in left-leaning circles over the weekend — that President Donald Trump had gained millions of followers — most of them being bots — in a matter of days.
On Monday, Twitter user @txmockingjay posted a tweet an initial tweet that claimed 5 million new accounts followed Trump in the past several days.
On Tuesday, a separate tweet from author John Niven asserted that many new Twitter accounts did not have corresponding photos.
Many legitimate journalists and news outlets quickly circulated the story. The Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Newsweek, Teen Vogue, and left-leaning website Daily Kos shared Niven’s tweet, and some prominent personalities shared the initial tweet.
But the company on Tuesday said the story appeared to be a strange, and somewhat exaggerated, misstatement.
The number of users who followed Trump’s account was far lower — the president had 30.6 million followers on Friday compared to 30.9 million on Tuesday. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that the @txmockingjay tweet contained unsupported information.
“That account is not verified and provides no source for their claim,” Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio said.
According to Twitter, it’s fairly normal for new users to not upload photos before beginning to use the service.
In a Twitter direct message with Business Insider — the user chose to remain anonymous — @txmockingjay said they “may not have been accurate numbers-wise” but left the tweet up to bring attention to an alleged high number of bots following Trump.
“I couldn’t be sure as I was skimming a lot of tweets so I don’t remember the original poster,” they said. “The reason I haven’t deleted it is because it brought awareness to the bot situation.”
Still, Trump’s peculiar Twitter following in the last month has stoked speculation about the veracity of his Twitter followers.
The Daily Dot reported Monday that Trump gained around 900,000 fake accounts in the month of May alone, an unusually large jump the outlet speculated could mean someone was intentionally attempting to get Trump kicked off Twitter by violating its service terms.
Indeed, in past instances, pro-Trump bot accounts have reportedly boosted some tweets supporting the president.
Though users peddling misinformation and fake news often had a right-wing slant during the 2016 presidential election, in the months since November, a number of prominent examples of left-wing conspiracy theories and inaccurate information have captured public attention.
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