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HOWTO: Deal With Spammers, Trolls & Automated Direct Messages On Twitter

As your follower count grows on Twitter you will exponentially be hit with more and more follows and targeted direct messages and replies from spammers, trolls and other unsavoury folk. This article will provide you with steps on how to tackle these nuisances.

HOWTO: Deal With Spammers, Trolls & Automated Direct Messages On Twitter

Spam

1. Follow @Spam

@Spam is Twitter’s anti-spam account. Spammers can be reported to @spam via direct message using the following code:

D spam @nameofspammer

You can also send multiple submissions, like this:

D spam @nameofspammer1 @nameofspammer2 @nameofspammer3

Note that this account is only for reporting spam accounts, not for trolls or people you don’t like.

2. Block Them

One of the best ways to deal with spammer accounts on Twitter is by simply blocking them. Accounts that are blocked by many users raise a red flag which will lead to an investigation and probably removal by Twitter. If you just unfollow a spammer, this does not happen. Block them. To do this, visit their profile and click on the ‘block’ link.

Choosing to block someone means that neither you nor your avatar will appear within the blocked party’s profile page, timeline or anywhere else. Perhaps most importantly, the person will not be notified that they’ve been blocked, and they will be unable to follow you.

It’s worth nothing that if your account is public, the blocked party can still view your profile page, and blocking somebody does not prevent them from sending you a message with the use of an @reply.

(If you block somebody by mistake, simply re-visit their profile page and select ‘unblock’. More information on blocking users can be found at Twitter’s support page.)

Trolls

If your account is receiving unwanted attention from trolls or other abusive users, you can report the issue to Twitter directly by raising a help ticket. Twitter will investigate and where necessary take the appropriate steps.

In the meantime, take the following measures:

  1. Block them. This won’t stop them from @replying you but as above Twitter will monitor accounts with many blocks and this could lead to a swift removal.
  2. Ignore them. Can be easier said than done, but by replying even once to a troll you are going to give them what they want and make it that much harder to shake them off. By opening a discussion you risk validating any accusations or comments and everything becomes public within your timeline. Don’t respond in anger. Don’t respond at all. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Take the higher ground, and move on.
  3. Don’t RT or forward their message to your followers. By doing this you’ll be providing them what they usually want – an audience – and furthermore put your attack out into the Twitter stream, which often just encourages more trolls. Ignore them completely, which includes not discussing the matter openly with your followers.

One way to put a positive spin on attacks from trolls is that it often means you’re actually significant and interesting enough to warrant this level of interest. Nothing wrong with polarising opinion, and if you receive a lot of interest from trolls, flamers and the like, chances are you’re doing something right. :)

Automated Direct Messages

Once you’re fairly established on Twitter automatic direct messages (DM) can become a real pain. With few exceptions, auto DMs are sent by spammers and marketers looking to pitch a product or service. You didn’t ask for this – why should you have to put up with it?

The good news is that there are a couple of simple steps you can take to drastically reduce the numbers of automatic direct messages you receive, because some of the sites responsible for the bulk of auto DMs give you the facility to opt out.

1. Follow @optmeout

@optmeout is a service provided by TweetLater and will ensure you don’t receive any direct messages sent from users of that site. To do this you need to follow @optmeout, wait for the follow back, send the account a direct message, and then unfollow. Done. You’ll now no longer receive automated direct messages from TweetLater users.

2. Sign Up For SocialToo.com

SocialToo.com is an automated follow/unfollow service that eliminates the hassle of doing this yourself. The site also used to provide an automated direct message option to users but this has now been removed. Furthermore, they have an inbuilt facility to turn off automatic direct messages from other services, including TweetLater.

  1. Sign up at SocialToo.com.
  2. Click on Preferences.
  3. Scroll down to the Preferences section, and click on the box marked ‘Turn off automatic Direct Messages from other services?’

This will lead to you receiving a direct message from @optmeout but you can just ignore this – SocialToo takes care of the rest for you. Indeed, it can be worth signing up for this feature alone, even if you want to ignore all of SocialToo’s other services.

3. Unfollow or Block

If after taking these steps you are still receiving unwanted direct messages from a user, unfollow and consider blocking them.

Remember that direct messages can only be sent to a user who is following you, and vice versa. So a quick and easy way to eliminate any problem with these communications is to unfollow and/or block the other account.

Note that these steps won’t stop you receiving all direct messages – just those that are sent using an automatic send feature. Any personal, manually-sent messages will still be received.

Also, this will not stop the reception of all automated direct messages, but will cut down on the majority. I estimate by taking these steps I receive about 5-10 per cent of the total number of automated DMs I was getting previously, from dozens and dozens to just a few each week.

Conclusion

Twitter has seen significant growth in 2009 and as it continues to expand and mature it will inevitably begin to receive the same levels of attention from spammers, trolls, flamers and other unpleasant folk as online bulletin boards, chat rooms and blogs have been subjected to for years. Twitter has an edge, though – the facility to be selective about who you want to follow – and by taking the steps outlined above you can significantly improve your experience within the network.

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