Twitter says that fluctuations in follower counts that occurred on its platform after it announced that it had agreed to be acquired by Elon Musk were organic in nature. Once the news was announced, numerous high-profile cases saw increases or decreases in followers. Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch that these fluctuations were the result of new account creation and deactivation and were not caused by bots or due to action on the social media giant's part.
"We’ve been looking into recent fluctuations in follower counts," Twitter said in a statement. "While we continue to take action on accounts that violate our spam policy which can affect follower counts, these fluctuations appear to largely have been a result of an increase in new account creation and deactivation. We'll continue looking into these follower count fluctuations."
Former President Barack Obama, who holds the most followed account on Twitter, lost more than 300,000 followers after the news broke, according to NBC News. Katy Perry lost more than 200,000 followers. Hours after the deal was announced, "Star Wars" actor Mark Hamil noted in a tweet that he had experienced a notable drop in followers.
Weird. I just lost more than 8,000 followers in the last couple of hours. Was it something I said? https://t.co/TS3vwDephc
— Mark Hamill (@MarkHamill) April 25, 2022
Before the deal was announced, many users on Twitter said they would leave the platform if Twitter accepted the offer. Once the news broke, "#RIPTwitter" was trending on Twitter and alternative social media platforms, such as CounterSocial, were also trending as users were looking for new options. Given the fluctuation in follower counts, it looks like some users went through on their promise of deleting their accounts in protest of the news.
The deactivations come as some users expressed fear that Musk’s approach to free speech will lead to changes in content moderation policies on the platform and the return of banned users, with some speculating that former President Donald Trump may be allowed to return, despite his comments saying he doesn't plan to if his account is reinstated.
Meanwhile, right-wing politicians on the platform have seen an increase in followers. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had 539,000 followers the day before the deal was announced, as reported by NBC News, and now has over 660,000 followers as of Wednesday morning. Rep. Matt Gaetz noticed the fluctuations and acknowledged them in a tweet.
It really is something how conservative accounts are getting massive follower increases today….
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) April 26, 2022
Although Twitter has said the fluctuations in follower counts appear to be organic, the social media giant told TechCrunch that it will continue looking into them.
Twitter announced on Monday that it accepted Musk’s offer to acquire the publicly traded company at $54.20/share, valuing the social media platform at $44 billion. In the press release about the announcement, Musk repeated his refrain that “free speech” is key to Twitter’s future.
Twitter says the transaction, which was unanimously approved by the board, will likely close this year following shareholder and regulatory approval and “the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.”
Here's a complete timeline of the Elon Musk-Twitter saga to help you understand how we got here.