Some conservative Twitter Inc. users are accusing the company of unfairly targeting their followers as it steps up efforts to get rid of fake accounts.
Prominent conservative pundits and activists said Wednesday that thousands of their followers had been deleted overnight. Other users said they received messages from Twitter asking them to confirm they were real people before being allowed to keep using the service. The hashtag "TwitterLockOut" was trending in the U.S., meaning thousands of accounts were tweeting about it.
"The twitter purge is real," conservative podcast host Dan Bongino said on Twitter. "Twitter blocked me from twitter ads last night and purged thousands of followers."
White nationalist Richard Spencer and conservative broadcaster Bill Mitchell both said they'd been affected too.
Twitter is seeking out and shutting down automated accounts that pretend to be real people as pressure mounts to purge the service of "bots" that artificially inflate follower counts and advertising metrics. Other fake accounts have been traced to Russian-backed agents that the U.S. government says are working to sow political discord in the country. Researchers say as many as 15 percent of users could be fake, a number Twitter says is much lower.
It's unclear if the latest loss of followers is related to bots. A Twitter spokesperson didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Conservatives have long accused Twitter of targeting them specifically. Even Ajit Pai, the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, has said the service discriminates against conservatives. On the flip side, progressive users say Twitter doesn't do enough to stop harassment against women and people of color. Some argue President Donald Trump, Twitter's most influential user, should be banned for bullying opponents.