Following Tuesday’s news that billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s original offer to buy Twitter had been accepted by both parties to the deal, prominent conservatives began tweeting complaints that they had suddenly lost thousands of followers on the giant social media platform.
Conservatives have long attributed sudden, massive, loses of followers to a Twitter “purge” of right-of-center voices. But, on Tuesday, many added the theory that Twitter has begun deleting “bots,” automated accounts passed off as accounts managed by humans. The contention that bots have inflated the number of users accounts on Twitter, and thus, Twitter’s value, had been a major sticking point in Musk’s purchase deal.
“The current Twitter purge is like the Nazis burning those secret documents before the Americans took Berlin,” Turning Point USA President and Founder Charlie Kirk tweeted Tuesday.
“Cleaning up bots before @ElonMusk’s purchase or another mass wave of censorship?” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asked in one tweet. Posts by conservatives largely dismissed, and some mocked, the idea that thousands of their followers had spontaneously unfollowed them at the same time:
- “Many users are reporting several thousand lost followers on Twitter. My account lost 16K. Cleaning up bots before @ElonMusk’s purchase or another mass wave of censorship?” - Fla. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (1.7 million followers)
- “The current Twitter purge is like the Nazis burning those secret documents before the Americans took Berlin.” - Turning Point USA President and Founder Charlie Kirk (1.7 million followers)
- “Lost ~12K followers in last few hours. I assume Twitter is purging some of their legion of bots before final sale. Also mildly curious if the bot armies that obviously swarmed Elon yesterday had anything to do with him deciding to go through with purchase to stop them/their aims?” - The Federalist Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway (873K followers)
- “Lost about 6,000 Twitter followers in the last couple of hours. I typically get several thousands removed every few days but not usually 6,000 at once.” - Emmy Award-Winning Investigative Journalist Sharyl Attkisson (381K followers)
- “I just lost 7K followers today. C’mon there can’t be that many people who feel passionately about the UC Hastings name change to unfollow me over the lawsuit I filed today?!” - Liberty Center Founder Harmeet K. Dhillon (412K followers)
- “I just lost 12,000 followers on Twitter. Is this another conservative purge?” - Author Nick Adams (362K followers)
- “Just lost 4K followers. It’s the @elonmusk news.” - NYT Best-Selling Author, Columnist Buzz Patterson (228K followers)
- “I just lost 2,500 followers today. The Elon effect???” - Author, ex-NHL player, Olympic Gold Medalist Theo Fleury (226K followers)
“[I]t’s probably Twitter but there’s a slight chance it’s someone else,” author J.D. Rucker proposed in a piece published Tuesday by The Liberty Daily. “Someone inside or outside of Twitter is purging the evidence of their bot farms that manipulate the platform and manufacture false public sentiment,” Rucker writes.
Rucker suggests that some of those potentially responsible for deleting Twitter bots en masse before Musk takes the helm could be hostile foreign entities, a Twitter team controlling bots to manipulate trends, or a government “fearful of getting busted once Musk takes the private company private.”