U.S. conservatives with popular accounts on Twitter expressed their outrage Wednesday at what seemed to be a collective loss of followers.
Though it is likely that Twitter has automatically deleted bot accounts, right-wing personalities started their own #TwitterLockout hashtag while some were claiming the Silicon Valley tech company is “censoring conservative accounts.”
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
— 🇺🇸MFLYNNJR🇺🇸 (@mflynnJR) February 21, 2018
Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and InfoWars editor Paul Joseph Watson were just a few of the other prominent conservative accounts who said they lost significant amounts of followers Wednesday. Other users claimed that they had been locked out of their accounts temporarily and made to verify the phone number associated with their profile.
A Twitter spokesperson said that the company is not going after conservatives and told The Verge:
Twitter’s tools are apolitical, and we enforce our rules without political bias. As part of our ongoing work in safety, we identify suspicious account behaviors that indicate automated activity or violations of our policies around having multiple accounts, or abuse. We also take action on any accounts we find that violate our terms of service, including asking account owners to confirm a phone number so we can confirm a human is behind it. That’s why some people may be experiencing suspensions or locks.
Other Twitter profiles used the #TwitterLockout hashtag to poke fun at the apoplectic reaction from popular right-wing accounts.
Contact me if you lost followers I am an attorney preparing a class action suit against Twitter and I’m looking for plaintiffs. This is a civil rights issue #TwitterLockOut
— the hippo account (@InternetHippo) February 21, 2018
After the recent FBI indictments in connection to allegations of Russia tampering with the U.S. elections, largely by using false online personas to influence voters, influential social media tools like Twitter and Facebook have enacted some policy changes.
In 2016, Twitter angered conservatives when it suspended what the company calls “reply bots,” or those users who set up automatic replies to certain accounts, like in the replies to U.S. President Donald Trump.