Top 5 Things Twitter Could Do To Deal With Spammers

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twitter spamNo one likes a spammer. I don’t care if the spammer is your grandmother, your Uncle Harold, your second cousin, or your newborn child that you just took home from the hospital yesterday. “Aw, she’s so precious!” No. She’s not. She’s a spammer, and no one likes her.

Oh, but the spamming will never cease. Wherever you are on the Internet, there will always be spammy links to ad farms, affiliate programs, and horrendous viruses. It just simply stinks, and with all that said, Twitter is certainly no exception to spam. However, after recently partaking in some hard-core self-reflection and deep thought, I sat down to come up with a few new ideas to prevent Twitter spam.

Unfortunately, the site will likely not put any of them out in the field, but I might as well share them somewhere, right?

Tweet Review

Facebook has already installed the Timeline Review option for their site, and I envision a similar feature for Twitter. Users could manually allow or disallow direct message tweets to be shown on their feed, and if enough users disallow an account’s direct messages, this could raise a red flag for the Trust and Safety Team at Twitter itself.

twitter spam

This type of feature definitely has it cons. If one is the follower of enough anti-social Twitter users (oh the irony) who constantly turn his or her DMs away, they could appear to be a spammer. That certainly wouldn’t be beneficial in the long run. However, it could definitely narrow things down.

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By the way, have you ever noticed that most spam tweets tend to follow a template? Yeah. It’s pretty obvious what they are. If Twitter honed in on these mass Tweets, that would be great. Furthermore, if they checked in on users who only tweeted off-site URL links – not even templates – that would be great, too. Using Tweet Review, Twitter could view data (from an automated perspective) and see if there are any patterns.

This might be a little difficult for some accounts, though. Take someone who really likes tweeting their friends on their birthdays. If every tweet they had was simply, “Happy Birthday!” then it may cause them some issues. Twitter would need to pay attention to accounts where repeat Tweets are typical and necessary.

True Email/Phone Verification

While writing this article, I decided to take another look at Twitter’s email and phone verification systen only to discover that… well… there isn’t a real verification system. With that said, it’s not as if Twitter doesn’t try. After creating a new account, Twitter will remind you that you that you “need” to confirm your email address. However, if you opt out of confirming your email, the only thing that happens is that you won’t receive email updates.

twitter spammers

If I happen to be a spammer who has arranged for hundreds of Twitter accounts to be created, this really isn’t going to be a problem for me. At that point, my purpose would be to simply tweet my info to other accounts. So what if I don’t get updated that someone tweeted me? I wouldn’t care what other people are saying – I would just want them to click the links that I send them.

I’m pretty surprised that Twitter hasn’t implemented a firm email or phone verification system for their service. With so many other sites doing this, it seems like it would be a given.

Account Rating

Right along the lines of the Tweet Review feature, I envision an account rating system for Twitter. This could be either a private system or a public system, but either way, it would be completely community-run. Users would offer a positive or negative rating of a Twitter user based on their actions, and the Twitter team would review negative ratings if they reached a certain threshold.

twitter spammers

Is this flawed? Oh yeah. People are mean, and people would give negative ratings of users simply because they don’t like them. In order to combat this, Twitter could monitor the voting actions of a particular user. If they tend to just have a general negative view of other users, it may be reasonable to limit their ability to rate. However, if this was done properly and honestly, I think it could be incredibly effective.

Targeted Captchas

Another feature that Twitter is missing is Captcha. Yes, I know Captcha is incredibly annoying. I hate Captcha. I hate Captcha with the same amount of hate that I have for open-toe shoes. That’s a lot of hate.

twitter spammers

However, I believe that targeted Captchas as opposed to general Captchas would be great for automatically checking out suspicious accounts. Consider the above hypothetical situation where many people turned down DMs from an innocent Twitter user. Also consider the possibility of a user being rated poorly by jerk followers. The Captcha could be a way for Twitter to scout out and see if the user in question is possibly a spammer. If the Captcha fails, then an actual, live person could come and check things out.

Physical Recognition

Call me crazy, but ever since Chrome offered Google voice search, I started thinking of other possibilities for accessing the web via voice. Simply put, what if accounts required voice activation for logging in? Personally, I believe that voice recognition would be a marvelous way to prevent spam accounts from even being created.

Now realistically, I understand we are a long way off from practically installing voice recognition as an exclusive way to log into any site – especially Twitter. There’s the whole issue of stubborn current users not wanting to adopt the feature, and then there is the issue of how voice recognition isn’t just absolutely perfect. Nevertheless, I still see it as being feasible.

twitter spam

Since Twitter is typically used with a mobile device, it would be a no-brainer to log into Twitter using one’s voice anyway. Furthermore, most computers have built-in microphones these days, so access to a mic wouldn’t be a problem. Additionally, users could opt for a password login after utilizing something like the email/phone verification as mentioned above.

But let’s be honest. The main issue with this is that there are Twitter users who have the inability to speak. At this point, the entire feature would not be good for general use. However, what would be great is to implement various ways to simply physically recognize a user – fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, handwriting recognition… I believe that all of this is possible, and it could all be done in the same fashion as voice recognition. Basically, we need a different way for users to identify that they are real, and this doesn’t have to come in the form of wavy letters or verification links.

Conclusion

Well, fellow spam-fighters, that’s all I can muster up. Perhaps we should all have a discussion right here, right now about how to solve the Twitter spam problem.

So tell me – what methods do you think Twitter should take against spam on Twitter? Do you agree or disagree with any of the ideas shown here?

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3 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Mike

I use a hardware firewall with 3* 19 inch servers connected together as an uninterruptable spam-supply.
No, the truth is that i simply dont use twitter.

Be cool. Ignore it.

Reply

g24r

Targeted Captchas sure is good to be combined with the rating system :D

Reply

Ben

Spammming is a very difficult problem to deal with. Voice recognition, if it can be implemented, does have some possibilities.

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