The drop-off has been most pronounced in large accounts. Barack Obama, the most-followed user on Twitter, shed more than 300,000 followers after Monday’s news. Katy Perry, Twitter’s third-most popular account, lost more than 200,000 followers.
So are hundreds of thousands of people all singing “Bye, Bye, Birdie?” Not necessarily. To start, conservative accounts are experiencing a surge in new followers, mostly from freshly-created accounts. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gained over 100,000 new follows, while far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro added 90,000 of his own.
Twitter said the sudden turnover wasn’t related to one of their periodic bot purges. “We’ve been looking into recent fluctuations in follower counts,” the company 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 be a result of an increase in new account creation and deactivation.”
It’s possible that hundreds of thousands of people really did decide to leave or join Twitter based on the company’s ownership. But Twitter’s wording here leaves open the possibility that some individuals are creating and deactivating more than one account. After all, buying Twitter followers is legal, and many seemingly-grassroots social media campaigns turn out to have been astroturfed.
Perhaps the people behind these services are shutting down some of their liberal fakes in anticipation of more opportunities around conservative figures. Or perhaps 200,000 Katy Perry fans independently decided that Elon Musk was the last straw. Twitter has vowed to “continue looking into these follower count fluctuations.”
Musk’s purchase of Twitter is expected to close later this year. The platform’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is processing his emotions by posting Radiohead songs, while former President Donald Trump claimed that he won’t use Twitter even if he gets unbanned.