Twitter purge costs Mitt Romney, Mormon church, The Tribune and other Utah-tied social media accounts thousands of followers

Twitter says it will begin removing suspicious accounts it has locked, denying access to its owner, from how it counts users’ followers. This means Twitter users are likely to see a reduction in their follower counts in the coming days The company said Wednesday, July 11, 2018, that the move will not affect its number of monthly or daily active user figures. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

What do Marie Osmond and The Used have in common? Music, Utah ties and a drop Thursday of roughly 11,000 Twitter followers apiece.

The social media site announced Wednesday that it planned to purge millions of “locked” accounts, or user profiles that had been frozen due to inactivity or suspicious behavior.

By late Thursday afternoon, the effects of the purge were visible in the numbers of accounts following politicians, media outlets, celebrities, athletes and other notable figures in the state and across the country.

“Follower counts are a visible feature, and we want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are meaningful and accurate,” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal counsel, wrote in a formal blog post on the site.

Utah’s two largest newspapers, The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, shed 1,875 and 1,543 followers, respectively, from their official accounts. The News’ sister organization KSL, through its @kslcom handle, lost more than 2,000 followers Thursday afternoon.

Heather Armstrong, who runs the popular blog Dooce, lost 185,000 followers — more than The Tribune had to begin with — or 12 percent of the 1.5 million users who followed the @Dooce account Wednesday.

In an email to The Tribune, Armstrong said she welcomed the move by Twitter and that she has been waiting a long time for the social media giant to improve the safety and user experience on the platform.

“Removing fake accounts is a step in the right direction,” she said. “I am not at all aggrieved to lose bots, spammers and Russian trolls from my Twitter following — although I hope they didn’t purge all the accounts who followed me because they think I’m Lance Armstrong’s mom."

Other Twitter tallies impacted by the purge were those of Utah Republican Senate hopeful Mitt Romney, whose @MittRomney account shed more than 76,000 followers. His Democratic rival, Jenny Wilson, added six followers to her @JennyWilsonUT account.

Celebrities with Beehive State ties were particularly hard hit, largely reflecting the starting size of their follower bases, with the accounts of violinist Lindsey Stirling, novelist James Dashner, rally driver Ken Block and musician Brandon Flowers each shedding thousands of followers.

The Utah-tied band Imagine Dragons saw 71,000 followers slip away.

Bucking that trend, however, was Tan France of the Netflix program “Queer Eye,” who added 3,300 followers to his account Thursday.

In sports, the Utah Jazz lost more than 16,000 followers, along with drops for the individual accounts of Rudy Gobert (down 1,166), Derrick Favors (down 3,969) and Joe Ingles (down 2,364). Donovan Mitchell, as of Thursday afternoon, appeared to have sidestepped the purge, boosting his follower number by 132.

The official account of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shed 7,223 of its more than 465,000 followers. And @MormonNewsroom, a formal public relations account for the LDS Church, lost roughly 6,000 followers.

Other notable accounts hit by the purge include former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, now U.S. ambassador to Russia (down 4,079) and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah (down 4,720).

But no Utahn or Utah-linked account compared to Twitter-obsessed President Donald Trump, whose more than 53 million followers rank among the highest tallies on the social media site. By Thursday afternoon, Trump’s followers had declined by nearly 337,000 accounts.

Reporter Sean Means contributed to this article.

Editor’s note • Jon Huntsman is a brother of Tribune Owner and Publisher Paul Huntsman.