Twitter suspended thousands of accounts overnight and conservatives on the platform aren’t happy about it. Twitter has yet to make a public statement about the issue, but right-wing users believe that they’re being targeted in a mass purge of suspected Russian bot accounts.
Conservative Twitter has even started a hashtag called #TwitterLockOut to talk about the purge, with some claiming that real people (as opposed to bots) were locked out of their accounts.
Everyone from well known figures of the alt-right, such as neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, to people with Twitter handles such as @Isa4031AMP, @DonofJustice and @Patriotsavior seem to have been impacted by the move – at least when it comes to their follower counts.
I've lost close to 1,000 followers offer the past few hours.
Major purge underway.
— Richard ???? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) February 21, 2018
The conservatives, (or in Spencer’s case neo-Nazis), claim that they have lost hundreds and sometimes thousands of followers overnight.
Apparently Twitter likes working in the dark (did this late at night) Many are unaware that twitter locked ???? accounts thinking we were bots
Anyway, I know who I am but Twitter has messed with my followers Please be patient as we try to reconnect #TwitterLockOut pic.twitter.com/dbohXnlcae
— EAGLE WINGS (@Isa4031AMP) February 21, 2018
Bill Mitchell, a popular voice on the right who’s known for his controversial tweets defending President Trump, claims that he lost roughly 4000 followers overnight.
I lost around 4000 or so. https://t.co/HZRz0y4aJM
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) February 21, 2018
Many people who are angry with Twitter are advocating for a move to Gab, a competing social media platform that has become the preferred alternative to Twitter for white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other folks you probably don’t want to associate with.
The best thing you can do to fight Twitter censorship is to create a Gab account and start using it regularly. The more people do so, the more useful Gab will become.
— Jared Beck ???? (@JaredBeck) February 21, 2018
Some Trump supporters are blaming the Twitter account purge on Communists, which is to be expected.
We're all Americans who voted for Trump, without being influenced by commies, yet every major Trump supporting account was locked out overnight. Unbelievable!!!#TwitterLockOut pic.twitter.com/xJk1H5ROdA
— TrumpIsMyPresident™ (@Trumpism_45) February 21, 2018
Mike Flynn Jr, son of the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, also claims that Twitter is targeting conservatives, though he claims he’s given the company the “benefit of doubt”.
— ????????MFLYNNJR???????? (@mflynnJR) February 21, 2018
On the other end of the political spectrum, actor Paul F. Tompkins appears to have been suspended overnight for telling Marco Rubio to eat 10 D-sized batteries, while others who have told Rubio to go screw himself over his inaction on gun control.
— Janie Haddad Tompkins (@janiehaddad) February 21, 2018
Gizmodo has so far been contacted by two real people who have been caught up in what is still believed to be a possible crackdown on bots.
“They told me that my account ‘exhibited automated behaviour’ and that I’d be sent a ‘verification code’ which I’ve never received,” one Texas woman told Gizmodo. She asked that her real identity not be disclosed.
Her Twitter account, @ThankUGOD4Trump, still has a warning that it’s temporarily restricted for “unusual activity”, as you can see in the screenshot below. You can view her account, however, by confirming that you’d like to see her profile.
Screenshot of Twitter
“Don’t know if I lost followers or not before that (only had about 2250 to start with) but I’ve definitely been locked out and unfairly targeted because I’m a Trump supporter who also tweets out Bible verses. Also received that Twitter mass email 20 Jan re: Russian Influence Campaigns.”
One possible red flag in her account, which may have been cause for suspension, is the fact that she retweeted a video implying that the school shooting victims in Parkland, Florida may have been actors.
Save it, upload it to other accounts. pic.twitter.com/2jy8VvTfEW
— ㅤ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????ㅤㅤㅤㅤ (@_True_News) February 21, 2018
That video was retweeted by @TEN_GOP_1, which has since been suspended. A version of that handle, @TEN_GOP, was one of the most infamous Russian troll accounts during the 2016 US election, which posed as an official mouthpiece of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Gizmodo has reached out to Twitter about the suspensions, but haven’t heard back. The company is notoriously opaque with its policies on suspensions.