Ever since Twitter announced its sale to Elon Musk, public figures have been seeing wild fluctuations in their follower counts on the platform—and the activity seems to be following partisan lines.
According to SocialBlade, popular conservative accounts are gaining mass followers: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gained 130,000 new followers after Monday’s announcement. This is compared with 6,700 followers in the preceding two days. Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Fla. Governor Ron DeSantis has seen uncharacteristic leaps like these.
However, progressive leaders seem to be losing their followers. On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders lost 18,000 supporters. This was the first April day when he had lost his followers rather than gaining them. SocialBlade shows that Senator Elizabeth Warren has lost 14,000 followers, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, nearly the same, according to SocialBlade.
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The Verge SocialBlade collected data from top 50 conservative and pro-liberal Twitter accounts. It found that the conservative accounts had a tenfold increase in their followers, while progressive accounts lost thousands.
Twitter issued a statement stating that fluctuations appear to be natural. “We’ve been looking into recent fluctuations in follower counts. 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 statement read.” We’ll continue looking into these follower count fluctuations.”
In the days leading up to the deal’s approval, many Twitter users unhappy with Musk’s rhetoric threatened to quit the platform should he take control of it; #RIPTwitter trended on Tuesday. According to data, many of these Twitter users fulfilled their promises.
Conservatives, meanwhile, celebrated Musk’s deal, and argued that its announcement was drawing right-wing users Return to the platform. “We (Patriots) have a lot of unfinished business left to settle on Twitter,” QAnon influencer “Qtah” wrote on Telegram, according to TIME’s Vera Bergengruen. Other people made unfounded claims as well. Donald Trump Jr. claimed that Twitter’s wild swings could be attributed to its internal decision to placate his new owner. He has cited freedom-of speech protection among the main reasons for the purchase. Many conservatives believe that Twitter is secretly suppressing certain accounts to make them less popular through “shadow bans.” Conversely, a study from Indiana University Bloomington last year found evidence of pro-conservative bias on the platform.
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But all of this movement is a bit premature, as Musk’s deal won’t be finalized until October; he can’t make any changes to the company or the way it operates until then. For now, he’s still a user like the rest of us—and he tweeted ten more times today, including his own theory for all the action: “Almost every media outlet on Earth wrote about me acquiring Twitter, causing a massive influx of new users,” he wrote.
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