When Elon Musk offered to purchase Twitter for $44 Billion earlier this year, he vowed to make the platform a true representation of free speech. Along with his commitment to free speech, Elon promised to “defeat the spam bots…and authenticate all real humans.” This article, however, is not Elon-stan-propaganda, or a commentary about free speech on twitter. Whether you’re a fan of Elon or not, there’s no denying that bots greatly influence the twitter experience. Recently, many users have noticed a bot that hijacks their account and unfollows people. A similar kind of bot follows, then mutes scam accounts in the NFT community.
It takes a fair amount of digging to discover who exactly is experiencing the unfollow bot. A simple “unfollow” search in the search bar provides a wide range of users experiencing frustration. There are a number of users subtweeting their ex, but if you look beyond the petty, “I can’t believe he unfollowed me” type-tweets, there is a shared frustration among twitter users who notice their following count has decreased without their discretion.
Twitter does not send you a notification when you unfollow someone, or when someone unfollows you. You can connect your twitter account to a third party app or website that tracks follower-activity on your account. However, using one of these services requires you to grant access to your account. (We all had those friends who linked their account to fllwrs.com)
It’s difficult to point to a direct cause of the unfollow bot. However, it’s possible that many users linked their twitter account to one of these third-party apps and services and gave them unwanted permissions —including control over who to follow and unfollow. ‘Twitter Family Tree’ is a service that many twitter users have warned their communities about. The API on the twitter family tree website is rather suspect, so it’s generally a good idea to avoid anything that looks suspicious. However, twitter family tree is one of many apps and services that ask for permission over your twitter account. To check your linked accounts and their permissions, go to settings —> Security And Account Access—> Apps and Sessions.
Similar bot in NFT Community
In the NFT community, bots are taking similar action against twitter users. Instead of unfollowing people, bots are following accounts then muting them. Since the account is muted, its content will never show up on your feed, but you are unknowingly following an account and inflating their follower count. See some examples provided by the twitter community below:
Most of us aren’t checking our follower-following count daily, but given recent activity with bots, it may be something to keep an eye out for. In the scenario that you want someone to unfollow you, you can take control away from the bot and put it into your own hands:
Random Twitter UX Tip:
Over the years, Twitter has changed their user-experience significantly. Originally, tweets would appear on your timeline in chronological order. Currently, the user-experience is defined by an algorithm that determines the types of content to show you based on your previous activity or interaction with certain topics. Sure, it’s nice to see information you’re interested in, but you might be missing out on tweets from your old friends or other accounts that used to define your Twitter experience. If you want to switch your Twitter experience back to the original timeline, click on the star symbol in the upper right corner of the Twitter app.