Twitter’s fake account crackdown leads to stock tumble

Twitter stock fell as much as 9% Monday after a Washington Post report found the company had deleted more than 70 million accounts in May and June and that the pace of suspensions has continued this month in an effort to crack down fake accounts.

Twitter’s stock rebounded somewhat after the company’s chief financial officer, Ned Segal, clarified that “most accounts” removed from the service were not active in the last 30 days and are therefore not included in the company’s monthly active user numbers.

The company said it’s conducting an audit to ensure that every account created on Twitter has passed a security check to prevent bots from gaining access to the social media platform. The change has already stopped more than 50,000 spam sign-ups a day, according to Twitter.

The sharp fall highlights investor jitters as tech companies including Twitter, Facebook and Google race to clean up their platforms and eliminate bad actors. The tech industry has faced more than a year of scrutiny over the spread of fake news and election meddling. User growth is often the key focus point for Wall Street in evaluating the strength of social media platforms and their potential to grow ad dollars.

The “volume of fake account deletion, albeit good for longer term, raises uncertainty on near-term user growth expectations,” wrote Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jitendra Waral.

Improvements to Twitter spam and fake account detection follow criticism that the service allowed harassment and manipulation to run rampant, as the company prioritized user and revenue growth over safety.

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