Twitter rethinks plan to delete inactive accounts amid concerns about dead users

Twitter is rethinking part of its plan to remove inactive accounts from the service starting next month after receiving feedback that it would be effectively...

Posted: Nov 27, 2019 8:41 AM
Updated: Nov 27, 2019 3:45 PM

Twitter is rethinking part of its plan to remove inactive accounts from the service starting next month after receiving feedback that it would be effectively eliminating posts from some people who've died.

'We've heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased,' Twitter said in a statement on Wednesday. 'This was a miss on our part.'

The company said it plans to introduce a 'new way' for its users to 'memorialize' accounts on the service. It does not intend to remove inactive accounts prior to the introduction of that feature.

The company's update comes just a day after Twitter warned users who haven't logged in for at least six months that their accounts could soon be gone. Its decision to press pause on that move highlights the struggle tech companies face to manage their platforms while dealing with the potential consequences of every product change.

'We're working to clean up inactive accounts to present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter,' a spokesperson previously told CNN Business. 'Part of this effort is encouraging people to actively log in.'

The move won't affect those who spend time on the domain, but don't necessarily tweet much. Twitter defines activity by logging in, and recognizes that 'not all signs of account activity are publicly visible,' according to policy guidelines outlined on its website.

On Wednesday, the company said the policy would only impact accounts in the European Union. 'We're starting with the EU in part due to local privacy regulations,' the company said.

It's unclear when exactly accounts will start being purged, or how many users will be affected. The company said it is reaching out to 'many accounts' that don't meet its requirements, but declined to share a timeline or an estimate of the number it considers to be inactive.

These handles will be deactivated over the course of 'many months — not all at once,' the company added.

The push against inactive users highlights a broader effort to tidy up the platform. Twitter has pulled the plug on large numbers of users before — although for entirely different reasons.

Policymakers have long called on the tech company to crack down on fake pages or feeds that are used to spread disinformation and other abuse. And the company routinely takes down spam or automated pages, and says its 'focus is increasingly on proactively identifying problematic accounts and behavior.'

In January, for example, it revealed it had suspended several networks of accounts that it said had been found to be potentially 'connected to sources within Iran, Venezuela and Russia. And last year, it said it would remove tens of millions of accounts that were previously locked due to suspicious activity after a New York Times report highlighted the proliferation of fake followers on Twitter's platform.

While the latest move would dent the company's overall user base, it is unlikely to hurt two of Twitter's most important metrics: daily and monthly active users. Like other social media networks, Twitter's numbers are carefully tracked by Wall Street each quarter to gauge the company's ongoing reach and relevance.

— Seth Fiegerman and Ahiza Garcia contributed to this report.

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