Have you noticed a drop in your Twitter follower numbers of late?
You're not alone - though that may reveal an uncomfortable truth about your audience that you may also need to deal with.
According to a new update from Twitter, in the wake of the Capitol riots last Wednesday, it launched a mass purge of accounts that it found were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content.
As per Twitter:
"Many of the individuals impacted by this updated enforcement action held multiple accounts, driving up the total number of accounts impacted. Since Friday, more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended as a result of our efforts."
Twitter says that these accounts "were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service".
Twitter notes that, along with its regular spam account challenges, which it also warned about late last week, this new action against QAnon related accounts has seen some profiles lose thousands of followers in a matter of days.
To clear up confusion about fluctuations in follower counts:— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) January 9, 2021
In order to prevent spam, we regularly challenge accounts to confirm details like email and phone number. Until that info is confirmed, these accounts aren’t included in follower counts. https://t.co/8BYcBCmxxA
So that'd be it - if you're seeing a big drop in your followers it's likely because you were followed by a lot of QAnon supporters and/or bots. Probably not your ideal demographic profile, and it might be a good prompt to refresh your brand messaging.
In addition to the account purge, Twitter has also outlined its updated approach to misinformation about the election - or as Twitter puts it 'violations of our civic integrity policy'. The revised strategy will include improved automated detection tools to weed out problematic tweets related to the election result, while Twitter will also look to ban accounts with tweets that are repeatedly labeled for violations of its policy.
Twitter has also moved to limit interaction with labeled tweets:
"On Tuesday, we limited engagement by no longer allowing any Tweets labeled for violations of our civic integrity policy to be replied to, Liked or Retweeted. People on Twitter are still able to Quote Tweet to share this content with additional context or their own perspective."
That could limit the spread of such claims by reducing discussion and engagement.
And finally, Twitter also says that it has blocked several keywords from Search and Trends as a result of their connection to election misinformation. TikTok and Instagram also blocked several hashtags and terms that related to the Capitol protests, while earlier today, Facebook announced that it would remove all posts which include the phrase 'stop the steal' heading into Inauguration Day.
The updated enforcement measures are the latest in the broader removal of conspiracy theories relating to the election, in order to avoid further civil unrest. The results of the election have now been certified, after facing several legal challenges from the Trump administration, and as such, the continued speculation of alleged voter fraud only serve to further provoke an already divided America.
Lessening the discussion makes sense within the context of civil unrest, but many will see this as continued censorship, and it's important that all the major platforms do use this incident as a guidepost to define a more concrete strategy to avoid the same moving forward.
That's not easy to do - effective moderation also needs to evolve with users and usage trends. But the Capitol riots brought the threat of social media-inspired unrest to the very heart of US democracy, and there can be no denying the potential of similar uprisings moving forward.