Twitter Gets Serious About Spam

Josh Catone
Josh Catone

Spam on Twitter has apparently become a fairly large problem. I’ve never really noticed it, but I also only have a couple of hundred followers, so maybe I’m not visible enough to be a target. Before its founder got disillusioned by Twitter’s downtime woes, the unofficial Twitter Blacklist site identified 561 known Twitter spammers — most of whom have been removed.

Today, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone announced that they’re going to start getting really tough with spammers. Twitter announced on their blog three new spam fighting measures:

  • Suspended Accounts – Twitter has developed a new internal administration tool that will make it easier to quickly suspend abusive accounts. In May, Twitter said that they would begin removing offending accounts that have been flagged as potential spammers, and contact account owners to allow them to plead their case.
  • Community Powered Alerts – Stone also announced that their admin tools will now automatically track accounts that have been blocked by other users. The more people who block an account the more red flags will be raised as that account belonging to a possible spammer or other TOS abuser.
  • Dedicated Personnel – The change that perhaps shows their biggest commitment to fighting spam is the announcement that Twitter is hiring a full-time, dedicated staff person to deal with spam. “Our first ‘spam marshal’ is starting at Twitter next week,” writes Stone.

Spam at social media utilities is always a huge problem. The MySpace Developer Team announced protocol today for dealing with abusive applications, for example. And Facebook routinely changes the rules that its applications must follow in an effort to cut down on application spam in its News Feed.

Spam has already overrun the most popular web communication tool: email, to the tune of 90-95% of all users. The reason spammers continue to spam, is that it is a surprisingly effective way to make money. A report from security firm Marshal found that 29% of users have purchased something from spam email — 29%!

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social networks would definitely lose their appeal if 95% of the messages sent across them were from spammers. It’s nice to see the owners of popular social utilities taking spam so seriously and trying to keep it in check so they don’t meet the same fate as email.