Some prominent conservatives and white supremacists are blaming Twitter's bot crackdown for wiping out thousands of their followers

  • Several prominent conservatives and white supremacists on Twitter noticed they had lost thousands of followers on Wednesday morning.
  • Claiming they were targeted because of their political views, they surfaced the hashtag #TwitterLockout.
  • Twitter confirmed with Business Insider it had indeed suspended accounts, but said Twitter’s tools are “apolitical.”

Some prominent conservatives and white supremacists on Twitter lost thousands of followers Wednesday after Twitter purged its service of numerous automated “bot” accounts.

Claiming they were unfairly targeted for their political views – and that some legitimate Twitter users were locked out or suspended – conservative Twitter users started the hashtag #TwitterLockout, which was trending on Wednesday morning. Infamous white nationalist Richard Spencer joined the fray, tweeting that he lost close to 1,000 followers.

Twitter confirmed with Business Insider that it had indeed suspended bot accounts, but denied the move was politically motivated.

“Twitter’s tools are apolitical, and we enforce our rules without political bias,” a Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider. “As part of our ongoing work in safety, we identify suspicious account behaviours that indicate automated activity or violations of our policies around having multiple accounts, or abuse.”
The company also said that if real people were suspended or locked out of their accounts, they can use a phone number to confirm the account is real.
“We also take action on any accounts we find that violate our terms of service, including asking account owners to confirm a phone number so we can confirm a human is behind it. That’s why some people may be experiencing suspensions or locks,” a Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider.

The suspected purge comes a day after Vanity Fair published a story in which former Twitter employees excoriated the company for how it handles bots, spam, and abuse on the platform. They claimed the company never had a consistent policy for dealing with how bots abuse Twitter. It also comes in the wake of U.S. Special Council Robert Mueller’s indictment of the Internet Research Agency, an Russian organisation that used bots to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter has suspended large numbers of bots in the past, including last month in response to a New York Times story detailing how celebrities buy bots to boost their numbers of followers.

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