Elon Musk launches what may be his largest Twitter purge yet

Elon Musk artwork behind a phone
(Image credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Your Twitter follower account is about to drop and possibly by a lot.

Billionaire Elon Musk continues to bend Twitter, which he bought for $44 billion late last year, to his will. His latest move is, it seems, the fulfillment of a promise Musk made in December: purging inactive accounts from the platform.

Last year, Musk promised to purge 1.5 billion inactive accounts from Twitter, targeting accounts where users haven't logged in or posted from their accounts in years.

That promise though wasn't long before Musk first set in motion his new account verification policy, which went so poorly he had to reverse course. It would be months before Musk could effectively strip thousands of legacy verified accounts of their blue check marks

Now, with that work done, Musk appears ready to carry out the massive purge, tweeting on Monday, "We’re purging accounts that have had no activity at all for several years, so you will probably see follower count drop."

Musk's announcement does align with Twitter's published "Inactive Account Policy," which asks that users log in once every 30 days and adds, "Accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity."

Obviously, many questions remain. It's unclear when the purge will start. We also don't know if "several years" means three years or starting from May 8, 2020.

We're also curious about where, if anywhere, Musk will draw the line. While Musk's longstanding claim that Twitter is full of bots means that inactive bot accounts are easily the first to go, we don't know how Twitter will handle accounts for those who have died and that are not being managed by their estates. So while singer Amy Winehouse's account, which is active through to May 1, is safe, murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi's, which has not posted since 2018, is at risk.

Depending on how many inactive accounts exist on the platform, this could be Twitter's biggest purge and some active accounts could see significant follower drops, which may feel like just another slice in Twitter's ongoing death of a thousand cuts.

As the Twitter chaos continues and Musk peels away the value of actively engaging on the platform by removing verification, demanding people pay for the blue check, visibility, and baseline two-factor authentication, many former active Twitter users are flocking to upstart Bluesky, a federated social media platform that will let you carry your identity to other platforms built on the same protocol.

Bluesky is nowhere near as large or even as active as Twitter. It also has no advertising and, therefore, no monetization, but for many, it feels like a safe space without a steady stream of draconian rules. Musk's latest move may drive even more former Twitter fans to bluer skies.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.