Why were these weird accounts following a bunch of people on Spotify?

Somebody sent a strange tip about Spotify to The Verge on Wednesday.

The email, with the subject line “Spotify Hackers,” claimed that “Every English account in America has two new followers, ! lucasrpx and ! vitornovaes.” The tipster followed up two minutes later to share a screenshot showing the profile pictures from the accounts, which featured characters from the Studio Ghibli movie Ponyo. Weird stuff.

This seemed pretty innocuous — we doubted they were hackers — but we had to investigate. It was easy to disprove that the accounts followed “every English account in America”; the accounts were not following me. (Though full disclosure that I’ve been an Apple Music user for years.) But the accounts did follow two other Verge staffers, and a cursory search on X (formerly Twitter) showed that a lot of people were wondering about these accounts. (Based on the images we’ve seen, it appears “! lucasrpx” sometimes went by “! lucas.”)

I asked Spotify about what might be going on. Spokesperson Laura Batey sent me this vague statement: “Confirming that these accounts have been disabled for violating our terms. Note that while they are no longer accessible to the user, they may still be visible on the platform.” I followed up to ask for more details but haven’t received a reply.

Exactly who or what “! lucasrpx” and “! vitornovaes” are remains a mystery. If I had to guess, I think they’re just spammers who were mass-following people. But they may not be the only other weird accounts following people unexpectedly; one colleague found two followers they didn’t know with the “! [username]” construction for their profiles.

Are you seeing any followers like this? If so, I’d be curious to know in the comments!

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