Scores of people on Twitter are saying the social-media platform was preventing them from following the account of “Unplanned”—a movie about a former Planned Parenthood clinic director turning against abortion.
Hundreds of people said late March 31 that they clicked the “Follow” button on the movie’s Twitter account, only to return to the page moments later and see they were no longer following the account. Many reported experiencing this issue repeatedly, with some posting videos of the phenomenon.
This is what happens when I hit follow and then refresh the page
(plz ignore my dogs’ snoring) pic.twitter.com/SrdgJReEca
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) April 1, 2019
“Every single time I follow @UnplannedMovie within seconds drops my follow—nine times in a row ‘sup @Twitter ?” wrote Salena Zito, a reporter at the right-leaning Washington Examiner, in a March 31 tweet.
— SalenaZito (@SalenaZito) April 1, 2019
She received more than 180 replies, most of which were people reporting the same issue.
Actress Ashley Bratcher, who stars in the movie, said she also encountered the problem.
“I can’t even follow my own movie. It keeps kicking me off!” she said in an early April 1 tweet.
I can’t even follow my own movie. It keeps kicking me off!
— Ashley Bratcher (@_AshleyBratcher) April 1, 2019
People reported that the follower count on the movie’s Twitter page was wildly fluctuating on March 31, from anywhere between over 170,000 to mere hundreds or thousands.
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) April 1, 2019
The movie had a rough start on Twitter, when its account was suspended for some time on March 30, a day after the movie’s theater debut. A Twitter spokesperson said the account was suspended by mistake.
“It wasn’t directly about this account. When an account violates the Twitter Rules, the system looks for linked accounts to mitigate things like ban evasion. In this case, the account was mistakenly caught in our automated systems for ban evasion,” the spokesperson said in an April 1 email.
“We reinstated the account as soon as it was brought to our attention. An account’s followers take time to fully replenish after it is reinstated. We are not hiding follower counts or disallowing certain people from following.”
The spokesperson said the time to “replenish“ the follower count caused the problem users complained about. “That’s why it appeared as if some people were automatically ‘unfollowing,'” the spokesperson said. “That wasn’t the case.”
The movie’s account posted a notice from Twitter, which said the follower count after suspension “may take an hour or so … to return to normal.” The Help Center on Twitter’s website states incorrect follower counts on reactivated accounts “will be fully restored within 24 hours of reactivation.”
“If it has been more than 48 hours and your counts have still not been restored, contact support for assistance,” the website says.
Actress and author Patricia Heaton, who also reported having the issue, said in an April 1 morning tweet that “this problem has been fixed.”
This problem has been fixed.
— Patricia Heaton (@PatriciaHeaton) April 1, 2019
Indeed, during the morning hours, people started to report that their attempts to follow the account appeared to stick.
The Twitter controversy seems to have considerably added to the movie’s promotion, as its account grew from only several thousand followers on the movie’s opening day to more than 250,000 as of noon on April 1.
The movie is a biopic of Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas who later became an anti-abortion activist. With a $6 million budget, the movie ranked fifth on its opening weekend, grossing an estimated $6.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country, performing more than 330,000 abortions a year, according to its 2017-2018 Annual Report (pdf). Among its other frequent services are breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, pregnancy tests, and contraception.
The issue of abortion has been pushed to the forefront in recent months as several Democrat-controlled states proposed or passed bills that would allow abortions all the way up to the time of birth, with limited constraints for very late-term abortions—an apparent effort to preserve easy access to abortion in case the conservative majority on the Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which hamstrung states’ ability to restrict abortion.
At least nine states controlled by Republicans have bills underway to restrict abortion. The bills would likely be ruled unconstitutional by federal courts under Roe v. Wade, which would likely prompt the states to try to escalate the issue to the Supreme Court.
Update: The article has been updated with further comment from a Twitter spokesperson.