Yesterday, John took a deep dive into the hot rumor running around social media. Many liberal and MSM Twitter accounts were reporting a sudden and significant drop in their number of followers. There were immediate suggestions on the left that some sort of purge was taking place following the arrival of Elon Musk as the new owner of the business. But that theory had some holes poked into it by the fact that a large number of conservative user accounts were simultaneously reporting a sharp increase in followers. (It looks like I picked up roughly 500, but it’s hard to say because I don’t check it all that often.) Twitter finally weighed in after the conflicting stories started trending and assured everyone that there was no man behind the curtains canceling lefty accounts with abandon. The “fluctuations” being observed in follower counts were “organic” in nature. (NBC News)
Twitter was flooded with user reports of high-profile accounts losing thousands of followers in the hours after news broke that Tesla CEO Elon Musk would purchase the social network, but the company said Tuesday that the “fluctuations in follower counts” came from “organic” account closures.
Some accounts on the political right, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, saw follower counts skyrocket.
Greene, who boasted 539,000 followers the day before news of Musk’s takeover, had 632,000 followers by Tuesday evening.
Twitter still hasn’t provided any exact figures in terms of new or departing users, but they said that someone is “looking into it.” I personally have my doubts that they will announce any exact figures if they just lost a hoard of subscribers, but they’re really not under any obligation to do so.
As to the “organic” nature of the shift, this just makes sense as far as I can tell. Over the past few years in particular, many conservatives quit Twitter because of the blatant censorship and oppression. Liberals had little motivation to leave since the platform was taking their side in the culture wars. But now, with the arrival of Musk, conservatives are likely coming back to see if conditions really are going to improve. And at least some of the panicking liberal users are probably making good on their promise to cancel their accounts if conservative opinions are going to be allowed to share the same space with their own.
If that’s the case, then this phenomenon probably just boils down to basic math. As more conservative users return, they are almost certainly following popular conservative accounts, driving up their numbers. Conversely, every liberal user that leaves registers as one less follower for the big lefty accounts they were following. If there are actually enough liberals stamping their feet and heading for the doors in a huff to make Barack Obama’s account shed 300,000 followers in 48 hours, that’s a lot of new vacancies in the “virtual town square,” as Musk described it.
But were there really that many people leaving? Not everyone is buying the idea. One op-ed at the WaPo yesterday described quitting Twitter as “the new moving to Canada.” It’s a reference to the common claims we hear every four years that if someone’s favored candidate isn’t elected to the White House they will leave the country. In reality, of course, immigration statistics show that very few people actually wind up doing that. But moving to Canada is expensive and disruptive to people’s professional and family situations. Leaving Twitter only requires a couple of clicks with a mouse, so perhaps our lefty friends actually are departing en masse. If that’s the case, all I can really do is echo a remark I saw from one account I follow that simply said, don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya.
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