Elon Musk Says Twitter Is Removing Inactive Accounts, Freeing up Desired Usernames

Elon Musk Says Twitter Is Removing Inactive Accounts, Freeing up Desired Usernames
The Twitter logo is seen on a phone in this photo illustration in Washington, on July 10, 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Pan

Twitter owner Elon Musk said the platform is permanently removing inactive accounts to release desirable usernames back into rotation, a move that had long been promised but never delivered.

While Twitter does have an inactive account policy in place, it hasn't done much to enforce it. The platform encourages users to log in at least once a month to stay active, noting that the system determines an account's inactivity based on logging in—not posting.

According to a recent post by Musk, Twitter will be taking down inactive accounts under a more relaxed standard than what the official policy states. Instead, he said this move will affect accounts that have had zero activity for years.

"We're purging accounts that have had no activity at all for several years, so you will probably see follower count[s] drop," he said in a post on Monday.

In November 2019, Twitter sent out emails to owners of inactive accounts, warning them that their accounts would be erased for good unless they sign in by Dec. 11 of that year. That message triggered much panic among people who wished to keep the accounts belonging to their deceased loved ones as a digital memento, prompting Twitter to put the initial plan on hold.

"We've heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased. This was a miss on our part," the company said at that time. "We will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorize accounts."

That promised function has never become available. Many users have asked Musk if there will be a way to permanently archive those who have died. Musk has yet to address this question.

Usernames Will Be Freed Up

In a follow-up post, Musk respond to a question about username availability, confirming that a lot of usernames would be up for grabs again as a result of the purge.

He didn't clarify how users would be able to acquire these usernames beyond the usual method of trying to create a new account with a particular name. Earlier this year, it was reported by the New York Times that Twitter has discussed selling usernames through online auctions as a potential way to generate more revenue.

Twitter's username squatting policy explicitly states that "attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames" may result in permanent account suspension. Despite this rule, people have been buying and selling Twitter usernames on online marketplaces for years.

In fact, in 2020, a Florida teenager was arrested by FBI after he obtained control of several high-profile accounts in a cyber attack, including those of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Kanye West. The FBI also arrested two other individuals who were helping the hacker sell access to those accounts.
In December 2022, Musk indicated that a large scale purge would free up the "namespace" of 1.5 billion inactive accounts. By comparison, the company said in its most recent quarterly report that it had 237.8 million "monetizable daily active users," or users that are active on the platform and are exposed to advertisements.
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