Twitter is going to purge and archive inactive accounts

Elon Musk say it's important to 'free up abandoned handles.'

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

"[Y]ou will probably see follower count drop," Twitter owner Elon Musk has warned the website's users, because the company is purging accounts that have "had no activity at all" for several years. Musk's announcement was quite vague, so we'll have to wait for Twitter to announce more specific rules, such as how long "several years" actually is.

His announcement also comes after he reportedly threatened to reassign NPR's handle on the website due to inactivity. According to the media organization, the executive sent one of its reporters an unprompted email that reads: "So is NPR going to start posting on Twitter again, or should we reassign @NPR to another company?" NPR left the social network after it was labeled "state-affiliated media" along with state-run outlets like Russia's RT. Musk apparently told NPR in their email exchange that Twitter's policy is to "recycle handles that are definitively dormant" and that "same policy applies to all accounts." It's worth noting that it's been less than a month since NPR quit Twitter and that it definitely hasn't been "several years" yet.

At the moment, though, the website has yet to update its inactive account policy page, which only states that users need to log in every 30 days to keep their account active. That part of the policy is pretty new, because Twitter had only required users to log in every six months as recently as April 19th. Twitter's policy still also states that it "cannot release inactive usernames at this time," but Musk hinted in a follow-up tweet that the company will be changing that rule. "[I]t is important to free up abandoned handles," he wrote.

When urged to rethink his decision, because killing inactive accounts will also delete tweets by deceased users, Musk responded that their accounts will be archived. What that means exactly remains to be seen.