Some Twitter users may already be running for the hills following Elon Musk’s takeover of the social media platform. A few major accounts have seen fluctuations in their follower count, with largely right-wing conservatives gaining followers while popular democratic figures such as former U.S. President Barack Obama losing followers.
“We’ve been looking into recent fluctuations in follower counts,” Twitter’s communication office wrote in an e-mail. “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.” The social network will continue looking into the follower count fluctuations, according to Twitter.
Former President Obama lost more than 300,000 followers overnight, according to NBC News. Katy Perry, the third most followed account on Twitter, lost more than 200,000 followers after Monday’s announcement that the world’s richest person had just bought the social media platform.
On the other hand, Donald Trump Jr. noted his sudden increase in popularity on Twitter. On Tuesday, he tweeted that he had gained 87,000 new followers in one day. The former president’s son suggested that his new follower count may be due to Twitter lifting an alleged shadow ban on certain accounts before “new [management] comes in,” he wrote.
Right-wing figureheads have long accused Twitter of suppressing the reach of their accounts by imposing a “shadow ban” on some of their posts to decrease their visibility. “Seems Shadow Banning is yet another “right-wing conspiracy theory” that was 100% true,” Trump Jr. later added.
Other notable increases in follower count included right-wing Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who saw her follower count go from 539,000 followers the day before news of Musk’s takeover to 632,000 followers by Tuesday evening, according to NBC News. We should note that her personal account is still suspended, but she saw the jump in followers on her official Congressional account.
On Monday, Twitter announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Musk in a transaction valued at about $44 billion. The Tesla CEO had been playing around with the idea of buying Twitter for weeks, sparking a conversation about free speech on the social media platform. On March 25, Musk polled his 86.4 million followers on whether or not they believed Twitter adhered to the principles of free speech.
Following the acquisition, Musk continued with the free speech narrative. He first urged his “worst critics” to remain on Twitter because “that is what free speech means,” and then later was apparently appalled at the reaction from said critics when he tweeted, “The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all.”
Musk’s takeover of Twitter has prompted a reaction from left-leaning users of the platform who fear his leadership may help further spread misinformation online. Whether or not some of those users have chosen to exit the platform as a sign of protest, or despair, still remains to be seen.