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I hate spam. I hate stupid, pointless DMs inviting me to join in some stupid game that I don’t have time for with a link acting as Twitter’s version of the much-hated yet-continually-widespread forwarded email.

Today, I decided to take matters into my own hands. From now on whenever I unfollow someone for somewhat spam-like behavior, I will take a picture of the offending tweet or DM, and tweet that with a message noting that I unfollowed that person followed by the hashtag #fightspam like I did here. I encourage you to do the same.

What’s great about handling unwanted DMs this way is that you can easily give the person you unfollowed the chance to explain him/herself, as @scottabel did here and here in reply to my original announcement that I was unfollowing him:
This is great communication and Scott makes a good point when he notes in this second tweet that “automatically unfollowing may penalize folks doing nothing wrong.” However, even these people, and Scott himself, are not really doing anything wrong, they are clearly using other services that are doing something wrong, and worse, doing so in their names and via their Twitter accounts.

So what are we going to do about it?

Let’s start flagging anyone we unfollow with #fightspam and announcing it publicly. This way, the person unfollowed can be given the chance to defend him/herself, and we are able to alert him/her to an app that is DMing his/her followers without his/her knowledge. We can then ask this person to kindly boycott the use of that service, boycott that service ourselves, and be ready to unfollow that person again should he/she be unwilling to join in the boycott.

What Twitter isn’t doing and should do

This is really all we can do until Twitter wakes up and starts blocking automated DMs. Twitter itself doesn’t seem to really care much about doing anything about this or any sort of spam.

For example, this account is currently the hottest “person” on Twitemperature because all it does is tweet groups of trending keywords. I’ve blocked this “user” and reported it to @spam as spam, but it (like many of the other accounts that I’ve reported) is still there. Also, it’s listed on a “these people are spammers” list as well as the lists of some porn-bot “friends” of the account. As you can see there is a pattern of spammers here that Twitter could easily follow to get rid of these accounts.

Why doesn’t Twitter kill off the spammers? I have no idea. I made a guess this morning after noting that I thought a sizable number of Twitter accounts are probably spammers.

What I do know is that @ev was behind Blogspot which is the largest online spam platform to date, and Twitter is now following the same pattern of doing nothing real to police its spam problems. As someone who has fought against spam as both a user and as a professional while running Netscape and as Editorial Director of Mahalo, I find this to be unconscionable on Twitter’s part and I hope they find their way to better spam-fighting tools. The breadcrumbs are there. Just follow the spammed keywords, the multiple repeated tweets with the same links, and the multiple duplicate tweets broadcast simultaneously by bot farms.


Randy Matheson points out another area where Twitter is failing to properly police spam: avatars.
Screen shot 2009-11-30 at 10.46.14 AM

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Scott Abel 11/30/2009, 12:45 am

    Thanks for blogging on this issue. I think it’s an important one. It will be interesting to see how technology and business process are utilized to tackle these challenges or whether a completely new social norm will develop online — or both.

    I’m learning right along with the rest of your readers about these challenges and others. I hope to document some of my learning experiences in my upcoming book, “Social Media 101”, out February 2010.

    I’ll may include this situation as an example.

    Thanks again!

  • Hugh Briss 12/4/2009, 10:55 pm

    Sorry, but telling people that you unfollowed them is lame. If you want to report spammers use TweetDeck’s “block and report spam” button or follow @spam and send a DM any time you’re spammed. Getting the accounts closed is the way to fight spam and the only way to get them closed is to report them to Twitter using the accepted method.