One month after Project Veritas revealed that Twitter was indeed "shadow banning" and blocking views critical of Hillary Clinton, the social network appears to have done it again, and overnight Twitter appears to have suspended thousands of accounts overnight, infuriating conservatives on the platform.
As Bloomberg reports, prominent conservative pundits and activists said Wednesday that thousands of their followers had been deleted overnight. Other users said they received messages from Twitter asking them to confirm they were real people before being allowed to keep using the service.
“The twitter purge is real,” conservative podcast host Dan Bongino said on Twitter. “Twitter blocked me from twitter ads last night and purged thousands of followers.”
Conservatives have long accused - and in retrospect, with reason - Twitter of targeting them specifically. EvenAjit Pai, the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, has said the service discriminates against conservatives. On the flip side, progressive users say Twitter doesn’t do enough to stop harassment against women and people of color. Some argue President Donald Trump, Twitter’s most influential users, should be banned for bullying opponents.
While Twitter has yet to make a public statement about the issue, Gizmodo reports that right-wing users believe that they’re being targeted in a mass purge of suspected conservatives under the guise that they are "Russian bot" accounts.
As Bloomberg adds, Twitter has been seeking out and shutting down automated accounts that pretend to be real people as pressure mounts to purge the service of “bots” that artificially inflate follower counts and advertising metrics.
Other fake accounts have been traced to Russian-backed agents that the U.S. government says are working to sow political discord in the country. Researchers say as many as 15 percent of users could be fake, a number Twitter says is much lower.
It’s unclear if the latest loss of followers is related to bots. A Twitter spokesperson didn’t immediately return a request for comment
In response, a hashtag called #TwitterLockOut was launched by conservatives to talk about the purge, with some claiming that real people (as opposed to bots) were locked out of their accounts. On Wednesday morning The hashtag “TwitterLockOut” was trending in the U.S.
Everyone from well known figures of the alt-right, like neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, to people with Twitter handles like @Isa4031AMP, @DonofJustice, and @Patriotsavior seem to have been impacted by the move—at least when it comes to their follower counts.
As has happened on previous occasions, conservatives claim that they’ve lost hundreds and sometimes thousands of followers overnight.
Apparently Twitter likes working in the dark (did this late at night) Many are unaware that twitter locked 🔒 accounts thinking we were bots— EAGLE WINGS (@Isa4031AMP) February 21, 2018
Anyway, I know who I am but Twitter has messed with my followers Please be patient as we try to reconnect #TwitterLockOut pic.twitter.com/dbohXnlcae
Bill Mitchell, a popular voice within the community known for his tweets defending President Trump, claims that he lost roughly 4,000 followers overnight.
I lost around 4000 or so. https://t.co/HZRz0y4aJM— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) February 21, 2018
Many people who are angry with Twitter are advocating for a move to Gab, a competing social media platform that has become the preferred alternative to Twitter among conservatives.
The best thing you can do to fight Twitter censorship is to create a Gab account and start using it regularly. The more people do so, the more useful Gab will become.— Jared Beck 🔹 (@JaredBeck) February 21, 2018
Some Trump supporters have even blamed the Twitter account purge on Russia.
We're all Americans who voted for Trump, without being influenced by commies, yet every major Trump supporting account was locked out overnight. Unbelievable!!!#TwitterLockOut pic.twitter.com/xJk1H5ROdA— TrumpIsMyPresident™ (@Trumpism_45) February 21, 2018
Mike Flynn Jr., son of the former Trump national security advisor, also claims that Twitter is targeting conservatives, though he claims he’s given the company the “benefit of doubt.”
Did anyone get a “heads up” up from @Twitter @TwitterSupport prior to them purging followers?— 🇺🇸MFLYNNJR🇺🇸 (@mflynnJR) February 21, 2018
I’d give them benefit of doubt but they’ve been caught too many times censoring conservative accounts#TwitterLockOut https://t.co/Wi1q9KdAb7
Gizmodo said it has reached out to Twitter and will provide an update if @Jack's company - whose stock in recent days has soared on the back of its first ever profit and a short squeeze - responds.