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Posts Tagged ‘reply spam’

Twitter Ups The Fight Against Spammers, Still Isn’t Doing Enough

Over on the official Twitter blog, there’s an update of a new way that all of us can help in the mounting battle against spam on the network. Twitter has added a one-click way to report any user as a spammer – which is now visible on everybody’s profile – and once done their ‘Trust and Safety’ team will move into action, investigate the alleged nuisance and act accordingly.

Also, once a profile is reported, it’s also automatically blocked.

Twitter Ups The Fight Against Spammers, Still Isn't Doing Enough

It’s important that a team is involved and that this isn’t in any way automated as this naturally limits the impact of false accusations and, as Twitter states, cannot be used to “incite an angry mob” against an account.

Previously, the only way to alert Twitter of a spammer account was to send a message to the official @spam account. I assume this will still be an option. And while this one-click, take care of everything approach is a step forward, it’s likely to only have a marginal impact against the growing spam problem.

What the network really needs is an Akismet or Gmail-style filter system that is configurable at the user level so that it learns. Because Twitter is an open network, and anybody can contact anybody else, whether they’re following each other or not, the biggest concern on Twitter right now is reply spam. (Closely followed by abuse of trending topics.)

I also think we need a stricter sign-up process, possibly via a subscription model. Because it’s so easy to set up a disposable Twitter account using a disposable email address, blocking one user doesn’t mean the end of your problems, as another one is right around the corner. And another one. And another one. All managed by the same despicable teams. This is a proactive move by Twitter, but because it doesn’t really tackle these existing concerns, the benefits are likely to be negligible.

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We Could Easily Combat Twitter Spam Using CAPTCHA

My friend Mark has a neat idea.

We Could Easily Combat Twitter Spam Using CAPTCHA

Reply spam on Twitter is on the up and because anybody can send a (public) message to anybody else on Twitter (whether you’re following each other or not) there’s not much you can do about it until it happens. As Twitter expands, this is going to become more and more of an issue. A simple security measure that asked new users to authorise their tweets could all but end this problem overnight.

Yes, having to enter CAPTCHA information all the time can be really annoying, particularly if you’re a seasoned user (I’m looking at you, Facebook) but if Twitter implemented this as a requirement for brand-new accounts then you could essentially eliminate reply spam overnight (certainly from bots).

It wouldn’t even need to work on a number of people basis, as Mark suggests. If each new Twitter user had to complete a CAPTCHA for their first ten tweets and/or direct messages, probably 99% of all spambots would be nullified.

Once you’ve satisfied this trial period, no more CAPTCHA for you.

Aside from the marginal annoyance for newbies, can you think of any good reason why this wouldn’t work?

(Another solution would be for Twitter to verify all accounts, and not just a smattering of celebrities and brands. No verification, no unauthorised replies for you.)