Twitter has set their sights on automated SPAM and has takedown orders for fake Twitter accounts. They are done playing.
It is no secret, you can literally buy 100s or 1000s of Twitter accounts for just a few dollars. Just do a Google search for “buy Twitter accounts” and you will be presented with a number of vendors that are selling Twitter accounts for just pennies.
There are bots, programs, software, web apps, vendors, macros, and all sorts of ways people are creating fake Twitter accounts.
It has also made national news headlines as well. One American entrepreneur outsources the service to India and has made over $120,000 this year so far selling fake Twitter followers.
In addition to that, people are selling their Twitter account and follower businesses on sites such as Flippa for tens of thousands of dollars. They build up their revenue and sell it all as a package to buyers looking for an at home money making solution.
It’s bad, and Twitter knows all about it.
Twitter Strikes Back
Twitter has recently launched a huge assault against account creators.
Last year, Twitter decided to take software companies to court that created tools to create fake Twitter accounts.
Twitter has recently teamed up with several Universities, including:
- George Mason University
- The International Computer Science Institute
These universities along with Twitter purchased 127,000 fake Twitter accounts from nearly 30 different suppliers in a little over a year.
Their goal was to analyze these accounts in order to find out what these account creators were doing to fabricate these en mass.
How Twitter is Cracking Down
Sometimes it is tough for a computer program or script to tell the difference between a fake account and a real one. It is particularly difficult with some fake Twitter account vendors offering “real” accounts, which are merely hand made Twitter accounts with “real” profile photos, followers and people following.
Twitter is now starting to recognize network patterns and similarities between accounts.
For instance, thousands of accounts are created on Twitter every day. If Twitter starts to see an account being created every 45 seconds with the same characteristics from the same set of IP addresses, they will put the smackdown on them.
This is a very real problem for Twitter and offers several challenges.
For instance, real accounts could get suspended during a sting which will cause an increase in customer service emails/complaints and network usage.
Twitter has now made some harsh changes which has put a damper on business for some suppliers.
They are now looking at actual vendor or merchant signatures which is essentially a footprint that Twitter uses to suspend and ban accounts.
One supplier was quoted saying, “All of the stock got suspended… Not just mine… Don’t know what Twitter has done.” In reference to the 14,000 accounts that were purchased and found to be inactive when they were purchased after Twitter made adjustments to their system.
It is also suspected that large Twitter account vendors are using 10s of thousands hacked PC’s or botnets to create Twitter accounts. This takes a simple terms of service violation up to a criminal act.
Brian Krebs, a writer and internet security expert recently wrote about Twitters battle with SPAM and was able to technically elaborate on how exactly Twitter is fighting SPAM.
What Can You Do?
The best thing that individual users can do is report SPAM and fake accounts as it happens. Some SPAM, such as the infamous Horse Ebooks Twitter account is just so spammy that Twitter has left it up because it has now become an internet sensation.
If you come across an account or Tweet that is offensive or is spamming simply hit the “report” button. If enough people report an account it will be suspended.
If everyone started reporting fake accounts and tweets to Twitter there would be substantially less spam on Twitter.
It Will Never Stop
Just like the war on drugs, as long as their are people who want to buy fake Twitter accounts, there will be people who will sell them.
People use Twitter accounts to make big money. One Twitter account in the right hands can net an affiliate 10’s of thousands of dollars.
The war is not over. If Twitter cannot stop the problem, they are at least trying to drive the price up and make it harder for accounts to be created.
This isn’t just a problem with Twitter either. Facebook, Pinterest and basically all other social media networks have the same exact problem.
Over time spammers will become more sophisticated as will the social networks that try to stop them.
There will always be good and evil on the internet.