Why all your Twitter followers disappeared

By Chavon Sutton, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Twitter said Monday that it has identified a glitch that allows users to "force" other users to follow them.

As a result, users found that they temporarily had far fewer followers in their Twittersphere than usual -- most accounts showed 0 followers for an hour or so. However, logged-in users could still see activity from all those they follow by going to their Twitter home page.

The company quickly said it was working to solve the problem, which surfaced in posts from Gizmodo and other tech blogs drawing attention to the bug.

"We're now working to rollback all abuse of the bug that took place," Twitter said mid-afternoon on its blog. "Follower/following numbers are currently at zero; we're aware and this too should shortly be resolved."

Gizmodo received a tip about the bug from a Turkish Twitter user, whose account has since been suspended.

John Herrman, a tech reporter for the website, said Gizmodo receives hundreds of tips a day, many of which turn out to be "fairly ridiculous." But the magnitude of this one became clear after a few quick tests.

"It turned out that it was in fact a serious exploit," Herrman said. "It was working exactly as if the person was following you."

By 2:45 p.m. EST, the issue appeared to be resolved, but Twitter representatives did not respond to calls for comment.

Last week, Facebook reported a glitch that made some instant messages visible to a user's entire list of friends. But Twitter has been fairly immune to criticism about its privacy policies, Herrman said, since less personal information is used for the service.

Twitter said Monday that protected updates -- those users flagged to keep private -- "did not become public as a result of this bug."

Although the snafu is unlikely to have a long-term adverse effect on the company, it does reveal potentially serious weaknesses in Twitter's system, Herrman said. In the short term, the company will have to do some public relations work to appease users.

"This will be a black mark on its record in terms of privacy and will draw them into this [privacy] conversation, which now includes Facebook," said Herrman. To top of page

Just the hot list include
Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 24,462.94 -201.95 -0.82%
Nasdaq 7,146.13 -91.93 -1.27%
S&P 500 2,670.14 -22.99 -0.85%
Treasuries 2.95 0.00 0.00%
Data as of 3:20am ET
Company Price Change % Change
General Electric Co 14.54 0.55 3.93%
Bank of America Corp... 30.26 0.08 0.27%
Apple Inc 165.72 -7.08 -4.10%
Ford Motor Co 10.82 -0.14 -1.28%
Advanced Micro Devic... 9.99 -0.12 -1.19%
Data as of Apr 20
Sponsors

Sections

The American newspaper industry says tariffs on Canadian paper could force it to cut jobs, drop pages or print fewer editions. Some are worried that smaller papers might not survive. More

US regulators are close to slapping Wells Fargo with a $1 billion fine for forcing customers into car insurance and charging mortgage borrowers unfair fees. More

The Justice Department is probing wireless carriers, and that investigation could put the eSIM card rollout on hold. More