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Twitter says most recent follower purge is about bots, not politics

Calm down, the company isn't targeting conservative users.

Photothek via Getty Images

A number of Twitter users are claiming the platform is purging itself of conservative viewpoints as some lost thousands of followers last night. Richard Spencer, writer Mark Pantano and Candace Owens of Turning Point USA were among those spreading the #TwitterLockOut hashtag campaign and claiming that only conservative accounts were being targeted.

However, others, including National March for Truth organizer Holly Figueroa O'Reilly and Republican political strategist Rick Wilson have said that the accounts being deleted were Russian bots and that conservative accounts weren't the only ones losing followers over the purge.

A Twitter spokesperson has now weighed in saying, "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. This is part of our ongoing, comprehensive efforts to make Twitter safer and healthier for everyone." The company also pointed to this page which details its enforcement actions.

Twitter removes swaths of fake accounts from time to time and last night's deletions are nothing new. They're also very unlikely to be a targeting of Twitter's conservative base. Last month, Twitter appeared to delete thousands of accounts that followed celebrities and popular Twitter users following a New York Times report on Devumi and its selling of fake followers and artificial engagement. Some have speculated that yesterday's account removals were related to Robert Mueller's investigation of election meddling by Russian agents and the indictment of several Russian nationals allegedly involved in mass social media campaigns aimed at causing political strife in the US.

#TwitterLockOut was still a top trending topic on Twitter this morning and while some legitimate accounts appear to have been temporarily locked last night, verifying a phone number -- a tactic used by many social networks to authenticate accounts -- was all that was needed to unlock them.

Update 2/21/18 1:02PM ET: This post has been updated with an expanded comment from Twitter.