Many Twitter users, especially those with large follower counts, have experienced a significant and suspicious decline in the numbers since Turkey’s election runoff on Sunday, suspecting those followers to have been part of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) social media troll army.
The existence of the AKP’s troll army, which is used to promote AKP policies and discredit opponents and critics on social media, has long been known in Turkey.
There have been claims from opposition politicians that these accounts were used to manipulate public perception in favor of Erdoğan and his government while spreading disinformation about his opponents during campaigning for the May 14 parliamentary and presidential elections as well as the runoff held on May 28.
After experiencing an unusual loss of followers on the night of the runoff, numerous Twitter users have suggested that the accounts, which have since been closed, could have belonged to members of the AKP’s troll army who had completed their missions related to the elections.
“Prominent Turkish accounts lost a lot of followers immediately as the election ended (me included). My theory? I think a bot farm self-destructed. The loss happened in blocks, not gradually. And Turkish Twitter had been awash with new profiles this last month,” Can Okar, owner of a Twitter account with 44,000 followers, tweeted.
Prominent Turkish accounts lost a lot of followers immediately as the election ended (me included).
My theory? I think a bot farm self-destructed.
The loss happened in blocks, not gradually. And Turkish Twitter had been awash with new profiles this last month.
Just a theory.
— Can Okar (@canokar) May 28, 2023
The Diken news website also said in a report on Monday that its official Twitter account lost nearly 2,000 of its over 1.4 million followers.
Journalist Mehmet Şafak Sarı told people not to worry if their followers are rapidly decreasing by the hundreds or thousands since it’s happening to almost everyone.
“… Bot and troll … accounts that were created during the elections for purposes of astroturfing, asymmetric propaganda and disinformation are being ‘eliminated’ by their owners,” he added.
Takipçileriniz yüz yüz, bin bin düşüyorsa endişelenmeyin. Bu hemen hemen herkesin hesabında oluyor.
Seçim sürecinde astroturfing, asimetrik propaganda ve dezenformasyon amacıyla operasyonel olarak açılmış bot, trol, siborg hesaplar sahipleri tarafından 'yok ediliyor'.
— Mehmet Şafak Sarı (@msafaksaritr) May 29, 2023
“My follower count has been decreasing since yesterday, and many of my colleagues are experiencing similar situations. It’s obvious that the paid AKtroll accounts have completed their tasks and are leaving one by one,” journalist Ayşegül Kasap said.
Takipçi sayım dünden beri düşüyor. Birçok meslektaşımda da benzer durum söz konusu. Bazıları "İnsanlar Twitter hesaplarını kapatıyor ya da Tweet attım böyle oldu" diye yorumluyor ama katılmıyorum. Belli ki paralı aktrollerin görevi sona ermiş, tek tek gidiyorlar 🙂 Bu kadar…
— ayşegül kasap (@aysegul_kasap) May 29, 2023
Answering stage actor Orhan Aydın’s question regarding the reason for his rapid loss of followers, lawyer and writer İrem Çiçek said, “It seems to be happening to all of us, Mr. Orhan. The trolls have completed their tasks and are leaving.”
Hepimizde var Orhan Bey. Troller işi tamamladı gidiyor. ☺️
— İrem Çiçek (@irem_cicek) May 29, 2023