Followers lost as Twitter fixes spam bug

Twitter users saw their follower count wiped to zero this afternoon, as techies at the micro-blogging site fixed a bug that enabled users to force others to follow their tweets.

The bug, revealed on tech blog Gizmodo, simply involves tweeting a message saying “accept @username”, inserting the Twitter handle you want to follow you.

According to Gizmodo, the tweet results in an error message – but according to the blog post, when the screen is refreshed, the targeted username has been added to your list of followers.

The command is thought to be a behind-the-scenes admin tool left over by the site’s developers.

Would-be spammers hoping to take advantage of the loophole are out of luck, though. At around 18:00 BST, shortly after PM Gordon Brown announced he was to shuffle out of Downing Street, users reported that their tally of followers had been reset to zero as Twitter engineers beavered away to rectify the fault.

"Twitter meltdown - I've gone back to 0 followers (sob, bye bye 15k) and 0 following," tweeted BBC tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, lamenting the loss of 15,000 subscribers to his feed.

Twitter explained what was happening with a tweet: "Follow count display is set to 0 and follow/unfollow is termporarily offline while we fix a bug."

At the time of writing, normal service has not yet been resumed – and it remains to be seen if the loss of followers will be a permanent one.

Update: 19:00 Hrs: The twits are back. Yippedoo!