Twitter has now slashed the daily follows limit from 1000 follows to 400 follows, presumably to combat spam and bot accounts on the platform. Twitter’s head of site integrity Yoel Roth acknowledged that such a limit alone cannot stop spam, bots, or other types of manipulation, but they do make such spammy accounts “less effective, slower, and more expensive to operate”. The new limit is a significant reduction from the previous cap of 1000 follows per day, although even allowing 400 follows per day is still more than an average user needs in a 24-hour period. Even Yoel Roth said that 99.87% of users are “totally unaffected” by this limit since they don’t need or want to follow that many accounts. So why this specific number?
Roth justifies the 400 cap as a “reasonable limit” which allows people to follow accounts they’re interested “while stopping the most spam.” Roth explained that Twitter looked for follow thresholds per day from accounts that showed spammy behaviour like follow churning – the behaviour of continuously following and unfollowing large number of accounts to inflate one’s own follower count. Roth said half of accounts which were churning were following over 400 accounts per day, along with a high rate of blocks and spam reports.
We found that nearly half of all accounts who made more than 400 follows per day were churning. That amounted to more than 20 million follows each day, and a high rate of blocks and spam reports — a clear signal that inorganic follows are super annoying.
— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) April 8, 2019
However, its worth noting that the cap doesn’t apply to verified accounts, supposedly because Twitter knows those accounts are not spammers. This is another step Twitter has taken to address the spam and misinformation problem on the platform; other steps include labeling authors for long conversations and hiding mean replies to tweets (in testing).
How does this impact verified accounts?
Will those still be able to continue with spam-licious “growth” tactics?
This is a step in the right direction, but should have been done years ago
— geoff golberg (@geoffgolberg) April 8, 2019
Two months ago, Twitter suspended three third-party services for practicing follow/unfollow churn which the company said violated Twitter’s API rules related to churn. A TechCrunch investigation had found that users pay such services to rapidly follow/unfollow huge numbers of people in the hope that some will follow them back. The services can either automate this process or provide tools for users to generate this spam themselves.