A brief look at some Twitter Spam

As many other millions people, I also have a Twitter account. I never use it through the twitter.com website because I don’t really have time to tweet. But, I have created an account on a website which publishes automatically any Avira Techblog post to my Twitter account. You may see them prefixed with “Avira Techblog:”. I sometimes write things through another service which publishes whatever I write to my Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr accounts. So, everything happens with only one click. This means that I very seldom visit these websites in order to publish something using their dedicated interface.

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This weekend, however, I decided to pay Twitter a visit. This wasn’t because I had nothing to do, but I noticed that I have a couple of new followers, which I suspected to be spammers. Usually, it is very easy to detect a spam account on Twitter. It follows a lot of users and  it has 1 post and is followed only by a few persons usually. So, I took the first in the list:

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Observe that this account follows 830 users and is followed by 47! And it has only one tweet, the URL pointing to an online brokerage website. If we check its followers, we see that some of them are similar accounts, but most of them are real persons who posted recently. So, it doesn’t really fit our profile.

Let’s see the next follower: 778 following, 0 followers, a single post. Ok, it fits our template. The URL is redirected to a porn website.

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The other follower is following 790 users and is being followed by 3 real users. It has only one tweet, but some users, so it doesn’t really fit our template. It points to the same porn site as the one before, using a different landing URL, in order to get a different short URL from burnurl.com.

Last, but not least, is the glamorous Jaime from Seattle, with 1103 following and… record… 337 followers. “Jamie” is breaking another record as well: 727 tweets. Having a quick look at the tweets, I can clearly see that this is an industry…

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Visiting that URL, we see a classical pyramid game for making money. A lot of people behind it, a strong marketing campaign, a really well done website.

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Having a look on the followers list, I see only real persons, writing real tweets (no API automated posts). All of them want to make money.

As a conclusion: Teaching people how to make money sells better than sex.

We strongly advise everybody to never fall for such scams because not only you don’t gain a thing, but you will probably lose a lot of money.

We all agree that Twitter should do something to stop these spams. But what?

There is no simple algorithm to detect these spam accounts. There are real people probably desperate enough to accept and follow such information. How can an automated system decide whether an account is spammy or not ?

The spam account has followers and posts, there are real people behind those followers. The Twitter’s Terms of Service don’t prohibit anyone to post things like these.

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You are no longer forced to follow your followers (as it was happening at the beginning of Twitter), so theoretically, anybody may follow you without you having to follow them.

Or should we maybe reconsider the definition of a Twitter spam? I am afraid that, slowly, the coolness of Twitter will be buried behind a huge amount of spam and the same that happened to email may happen to Twitter as well.

Sorin Mustaca
Manager International Software Development

PS: I blocked the 4 spam accounts which were following my Twitter account.