AP returns to Twitter after hack — but where are its 2 million followers?

The Associated Press is back on Twitter after yesterday’s hacking incident, which roiled financial markets with a fake tweet about explosions at the White House. But something is still amiss — the news agency has almost 2 million fewer followers than it did before the hacking. Update: Twitter has told the AP that it can take up to 24 hours for followers to return.

In case you missed it, the AP’s Twitter account was suspended yesterday afternoon after the fake tweet — possibly posted by the Syrian army — caused a temporary shock to stock markets, which rely on news wires like the AP for up-to-date information.

On Wednesday morning, the AP announced its Twitter feed had returned and began tweeting ordinary news items (though initially forgetting to delete the hoax tweet):

Most of the account’s followers, however, appear to have disappeared. At the time of the hacking incident, the AP had nearly 2 million followers:

Screenshot of AP tweet

As of Wednesday morning at 9:30 ET, however, the AP account had fewer than 100,000 followers:

AP Twitter screenshot

I’ve asked the AP for an explanation and am still waiting on a response. At this point,Twitter may be adding the followers back gradually; the 85,454 figure is almost double the number from earlier this morning.

Update: The AP says its social media editorĀ “was told by Twitter that it can take up to 24 hours for the follower count of a suspended account to return to normal.”

If the followers have indeed been wiped out, this would represent a serious blow for the AP. Like other news organizations, the AP relies heavily on social media outlets to disseminate its stories, and an organization’s (or person’s) number of Twitter followers can stand as proxy for influence.

The AP hacking incident has also led to calls for Twitter to introduce a security feature known as 2-step authentication.