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July 11, 2018
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If your Twitter followers start going missing on Thursday, it probably wasn't because of a bad tweet.

Twitter will purge tens of millions of fake or suspicious accounts starting Thursday, The New York Times reports. The move comes in the wake of a January Times investigation into a follower farm, which Twitter executives say inspired the company to crack down on fake accounts.

Since follower counts lead to influence in the real world, aspiring influencers, businesspeople, and politicians often purchased followers en masse, the Times says. Advertisers who sponsored posts with these supposedly influential users soon realized not every follower was a real person, and they weren't reaching the numbers they were paying for. Meanwhile, real followers' influence was watered down by bots and phony accounts.

So when the Times' January investigation exposed the creation of and business behind these fake accounts, Twitter finally took action. It started by locking millions of accounts suspected to be automated, racking up millions of suspensions by May. These locked accounts, which can't interact with other accounts, weren't counted in Twitter's active user numbers reported to investors. But they still showed up in follower counts, per the Times.

Now, Twitter has reached the next step. It'll remove suspicious users from follower counts, but not completely erase the accounts. Twitter told the Times it plans to remove about 6 percent of the site's total combined followers — a number that could be in the tens of millions.

Read more about Twitter's big step at The New York Times, and check out the investigation that inspired it here. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42 a.m. ET
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A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows President Trump emerged from a week of bipartisan criticism unscathed. In fact, his voter approval got a small boost.

Trump racked up a 45 percent approval rating, up one point from June, the poll found. That's mostly thanks to Republicans, 88 percent of whom approved of Trump's performance — the highest Republican percentage of his presidency so far.

Overall, 29 percent of voters strongly approved of Trump's performance, the highest percentage of the last year. Just 9 percent of Democrats strongly or somewhat approved of Trump, and 44 percent of all voters strongly disapproved of how he's doing.

These numbers were gathered between July 15-18, which was a tumultuous time for the president. On July 16, Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and questioned Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He reversed course the next day, but not before Democrats and Republicans slammed his performance. Trump also faced intense scrutiny over his family separation policy in the time between June's survey and the new poll. A majority of Americans did disapprove of how Trump handled family separation and U.S.-Russia relations, the new poll found.

As for the November midterm elections, respondents listed the economy and health care as top issues, with Democrats indicating stronger interest in those races than Republicans.

The poll surveyed 900 registered voters over the phone, and has a 3.3 percent margin of error. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42 a.m. ET
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The first trial in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference begins this week, as President Trump faces ongoing scrutiny of his cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has already pleaded not guilty to money laundering, bank fraud, conspiracy against the U.S., failure to register as a foreign agent, and lying to the FBI. Manafort is being tried in Virginia starting Wednesday, when jury selection begins, reports Bloomberg. His attorneys have argued that his charges have nothing to do with campaign work, and Trump has distanced himself from Manafort, saying he only worked with him for a "very short period of time."

Earlier this month, Mueller indicted 12 Russian nationals and charged them with hacking Democratic Party computers to influence the 2016 election. Other people indicted by the Mueller investigation, like former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and are cooperating with Mueller's team.

Trump on Monday called for an end to the probe, claiming it was "discredited" due to campaign surveillance by the FBI, though The Washington Post reports that the counterintelligence investigation began months before the 2016 surveillance application. Read more at Bloomberg. Summer Meza

8:39 a.m. ET

President Trump on Sunday revived a week of controversy by referring to Russian election interference as "a big hoax." "So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election," Trump tweeted. "Why didn't he do something about it? Why didn't he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax."

The tweet came after Trump spent days reassuring Americans that he accepts intelligence agencies' conclusion that Moscow meddled in the 2016 campaign, despite indicating after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he believed Putin's denials over the conclusions of U.S. intelligence services. Earlier Sunday, Trump argued without evidence that newly released documents confirm "that the Department of 'Justice' and FBI misled the courts" that approved warrants to wiretap his onetime campaign adviser Carter Page. Harold Maass

7:48 a.m. ET
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Iranian leaders are taking President Trump's threats in stride.

Trump on Sunday night sent a tweet warning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to "NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN," but Iranian state media dismissed the tweet Monday as a "passive reaction," Talking Points Memo reports.

The all-caps tweet was in response to Rouhani's remark that "peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars," with Rouhani on Sunday arguing that attempts to undermine Tehran among the Iranian public would not be successful. Rouhani reportedly told a local newspaper that Trump had better not "play with the lion's tail," but political analysts said the war of words doesn't signal a real desire to escalate conflict. Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh said that the harsh words are made public because the two leaders are currently forced to "express themselves through speeches since diplomatic channels are closed."

Trump, writing that Iran would suffer untold consequences if it continued to threaten the U.S., said "WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!" Read more at Talking Points Memo. Summer Meza

2:12 a.m. ET

Mr. Faulkner's Old Fashioned Hot Dogs is one of Minneapolis' newest eating destinations — and it's run by a 13-year-old.

Jaequan Faulkner first started selling hot dogs in front of his house two years ago, and decided to try it again this summer so he could make money for new school clothes. Someone called the city's health department and complained about the stand, which did not have a permit, but instead of shutting him down right away, officials worked with Faulkner to get his stand up to code. "They're actually the ones who are helping me," he told KARE. "It makes me feel kind of — not kind of — really proud that people know what I'm doing."

The Minneapolis Health Department, Minneapolis Promise Zone, and Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON) are all guiding Faulkner, working with him on everything from pricing to marketing. He now has a tent, hand washing station, and thermometer to check the temperature of his food, plus employees from the health department pooled their money to help him cover the $87 permit. Faulkner is looking forward to growing his business, and loves making people smile. "It puts pride in me to see that I'm doing something good for the community," he told KARE. Catherine Garcia

1:43 a.m. ET
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Earlier this month, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico's president-elect, sent President Trump a letter, calling on him to resume NAFTA negotiations and work with Mexico and Central American countries to stem migration.

On Sunday, Lopez Obrador's proposed foreign minister read the letter during a press conference. The missive urged Trump to join Lopez Obrador for an initiative to combat poverty and violence in Central America, two of the issues that cause people to flee to the United States, and discussed setting up a fund for development in the region. It also said Lopez Obrador's transition team will work with the current Mexican government on NAFTA negotiations. Lopez Obrador will be inaugurated on Dec. 1. Catherine Garcia

1:17 a.m. ET
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A gunman opened fire in a neighborhood in Toronto's east end on Sunday night, killing one person and injuring at least 13 others, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

The shooter was killed "in an exchange of gunfire," Saunders told reporters, and "a young girl, I believe eight or nine years old, is in critical condition." The shooting took place near Danforth and Pape avenues, on "one of the busiest streets in the country," Saunders said. Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters police have "not drawn any conclusions about what happened here or why."

Witness Jim Melis told The Globe and Mail he was driving down the street when he saw a white man wearing a black hat and bandana start firing into a cafe. Another witness, John Aruldason, said there were lots of people eating out in restaurants, and patios were full. "No one thinks this would happen in Toronto," he added. "People were slow to react — it wasn't believable."

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. Catherine Garcia

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