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Twitter has removed millions of accounts linked to a potential vulnerability in its SMS service

If you run a big Twitter account, you may have noted a significant drop in your follower count over the last few weeks.

That's because Twitter has removed millions of accounts linked to a potential vulnerability in its SMS service, which has also lead to Twitter switching off its tweets by SMS option permanently in most regions.

We want to continue to help keep your account safe. We’ve seen vulnerabilities with SMS, so we’ve turned off our Twitter via SMS service, except for a few countries. Everyone will still have access to important SMS messages needed to log in to and manage their accounts.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) April 27, 2020

Tweeting via SMS is not a widely used option these days, but it is still beneficial for those in developing regions, where access to data and networks is not as readily available, which is why Twitter will maintain support for the process in a few, specific markets. 

Twitter suspended the option to tweet via SMS in most regions last September, after the account of CEO Jack Dorsey was hacked via its SMS-connected system, using a process which reportedly involves swapping SIM cards. After initially switching it off for everybody, Twitter reinstated the option for some markets. Now, Twitter is locking it down again, as it looks to limit the impacts of accounts created via SMS.

In a statement provided to Mashable, Twitter said that:

“We are removing accounts that were created via SMS as we no longer support this technology and because these accounts have a high risk of becoming compromised. As a result of this, some accounts may see a drop in followers. We want people to have confidence that their follower counts are meaningful, accurate and reflect active accounts on Twitter, and this is part of our ongoing work to ensure that.”

So how many followers can you expect to have lost as a result?

According to social media adviser Matt Navarra, some accounts with a million or more followers may have seen a drop of 8-10% in their total audience count due to this new purge.

So, if you've seen a drop, it probably wasn't something you tweeted, or an organic decline - i.e people choosing to unfollow. For smaller accounts, the impact should be fairly minor, but still, a relevant point to note in your own analytics.

In terms of SMS tweeting, as noted, it's not a widely used option anymore, so the impact here should be minimal. You can read more about the process here.

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