Well, this is unfortunate but perhaps predictable. Email and blog spammers are apparently bored and looking for more ways to generate worthless computer packet activity– and are now turning to Twitter to create spam accounts. (I know this didn’t just start happening last week, but I’ve really noticed an uptick in these accounts and followers lately.) The screenshot below is representative of at least 10 new Twitter followers to my account which are clearly spammers– context clues include:

  1. the same suggestive photos are used on multiple accounts
  2. no URL or short bio is provided, giving (ostensibly) more information about the owner
  3. the same URLs and comments are posted on different accounts
  4. the number of “following” users far outstrips followers
  5. the account was created in the last 24 hours

Spam Twitter Followers

One takeaway here is to check your Twitter followers regularly and don’t hesitate to BAN followers like this. We hear that we’re often judged by the company we keep– hopefully that won’t immediately extend to Twitter followers which have not been reciprocally followed back. It certainly could, however, so I’d recommend educators (and others) use the BAN feature on Twitter to insure your account is not directly associated with a spammer account. Certainly you’d never want to actually FOLLOW a twitter spammer account.

BTW, please don’t take it personally if you are an educator and I haven’t followed you back yet on Twitter– I’m far behind on that to-do list, and need to spend some moments with Twitter Karma to catch up. I’m also certainly capable of misjudging an account when I look at it quickly… While it can seem obvious that an account creator is a spammer using various context clues, it’s also possible to make a mistake. Hopefully I’m not making many of those on Twitter.

I think another takeaway from this situation is that it’s never advisable to automatically follow others who follow you on Twitter. There are some services available like this, I think, which will “auto-follow” people who follow you on Twitter and even post a thank you message to your account as an @reply to them. I think this automation of Twitter activity is unfortunate and is something in which I have absolutely no interest in… microblogging should be about personal connections, not mass media marketing or spamming– it’s too bad we’re seeing these groups attempt to co-opt the platform. Let’s hope they don’t succeed.

Doug Johnson killed his Twitter account earlier this month, and I had someone ask me last week about the advisability of “protecting” Twitter updates. At this point I’m not resorting to either of those options, but I’m not sure what other steps I should take to address this “twitter spam follower” problem other than checking my account periodically and banning followers who are clearly NOT on Twitter to have a conversation about learning or educational technology.

What are your thoughts on dealing with Twitter spammers? Apparently over 90% of all emails currently sent are spam. Hopefully Twitter and other microblogging platforms will find ways to avoid the spam fate of email.

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5 Responses to Spam Twitter Followers Proliferating

  1. Hadass Eviatar says:

    I’m in the exact same boat, Wes. Checking my account regularly and blocking spam followers. The annoying part is that I don’t always get an e-mail from Twitter when they follow me – I wonder how they do that?

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    I’m not sure– I turned off Twitter email updates for everything except direct messages– perhaps they are finding a way to hack the API in some way. 🙁

  3. Shaun Wood says:

    I have notice a huge increase in the exact same spam porn followers. I have never liked protecting my tweets but I am blocking up to ten followers a day now, so I’m protecting to try cut it back. Won’t it be nice if Twitter had a spam filter like Gmail?

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    Unfortunately I wonder if Twitter and other social networks are going to have to put some protections like that in place… I think this pattern shows that something needs to be done, in an automated way, for spam filtering. I’ve been using BoxBe for a couple months in conjunction with Gmail and have been pretty pleased with it. I’d guess we’ll see both Twitter and third parties try to respond to this problem, particularly if it keeps getting worse. I’m pretty confident the Twitter folks are working on this already behind the scenes– they’ve had their hands full with DoS attacks lately I know…

  5. Ryan Collins says:

    I’m surprised that Twitter hasn’t given users an option to approve new followers, but keep your update public. I don’t want to protect my updates.

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