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Twitter says spikes, dips in followers of popular politicos authentic ahead of Musk’s planned buy


People quitting and joining Twitter amid news of Elon Musk’s planned purchase have driven large swings in the number of followers of prominent American political figures, according to Twitter.

The accounts of current and former elected officials have experienced sharp upticks and dramatic losses in followers on the platform in the days surrounding the announcement of Mr. Musk’s acquisition.

For example, former President Barack Obama lost 300,000 followers after the announcement, while Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, added approximately 90,000 followers, according to NBC.

Twitter told The Washington Times it is investigating the mass migrations of followers, but it believes the fluctuations are largely the result of new accounts created and deactivated in recent days, instead of spam or inauthentic behavior.

The takeover by Mr. Musk, a proponent of fewer restrictions for online speech, has attracted some political conservatives’ return and rankled liberals. Conservative talker Mark Levin said Monday he decided to return to the platform because of its incoming ownership, and was welcomed by Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican.

Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, called Mr. Musk’s looming acquisition “dangerous for democracy” and said strong rules are needed to hold big tech companies accountable.

“The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter. He added that he opposes censorship that goes far beyond what laws provide.

The company’s new ownership will court and turn off different audiences. But Twitter’s latest tinkering with its algorithm in support of machine learning may also provide clues for the sudden fluctuations.

Earlier this month, Twitter provided details about its “responsible machine learning initiative” and noted that the artificially intelligent tools that Twitter uses may “impact hundreds of millions of Tweets per day.”

The effort involved an in-depth analysis of content recommendations for different political ideologies in seven countries, according to Twitter’s Jutta Williams and Rumman Chowdhury.

“Technical solutions alone do not resolve the potential harmful effects of algorithmic decisions,” the Twitter employees said earlier this month. “Our Responsible ML working group is interdisciplinary and is made up of people from across the company, including technical, research, trust and safety, and product teams.”

A Twitter spokesperson did not answer questions regarding whether the new machine learning work affected the behavior of people on the platform reflected in the fluctuating follower counts.

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