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Twitter suspended about 70 million accounts it deemed as fake or suspicious over the past 2 months

Twitter has purged about 70 million 'fake' accounts in the past two months, in a reported effort to crack down on bots and trolls. (Loic Venance/Getty Images)

About 70 million Twitter accounts were suspended over the last 2 months in a new crackdown against fake or suspicious accounts.

Twitter executives have said they have suspended about 1 million accounts every day in recent months. The company is touting the move as a way to control disinformation on the platform.

Further details were illustrated in a blog post by Twitter execs: “In May 2018, our systems identified and challenged more than 9.9 million potentially spammy or automated accounts per week. That’s up from 6.4 million in December 2017, and 3.2 million in September.”

What criticism has Twitter faced?

Twitter has faced criticism over the number of bots, trolls, and other accounts that are used to spread disinformation or harass other users. Some of the accounts utilize automation software to flood the platform with hundreds of tweets a day in an effort to drown out other voices, critics have said. On the other hand, Twitter itself has faced accusations that it censors conservative voices.

“One of the biggest shifts is in how we think about balancing free expression versus the potential for free expression to chill someone else’s speech,” Twitter’s vice president for trust and safety Del Harvey said in an interview. “Free expression doesn’t really mean much if people don’t feel safe.”

Is this a long-standing problem?

Bots, trolls, and fake accounts have plagued Twitter since it began in 2006. In 2015, Twitter’s then-chief executive Dick Costolo stated in a company memo: “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years.”

The Washington Post gave it’s take on the account suspensions, writing: “The changes, which were the subject of internal debate, reflect a philosophical shift for Twitter. Its executives long resisted policing misbehavior more aggressively, for a time even referring to themselves as ‘the free speech wing of the free speech party.’”

After hearing that news, President Donald Trump wondered on Twitter if account deletions could include the New York Times and the Washington Post.

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