Telling stories

Does Twittertown Need a New Sheriff?

Posted by southwrite on October 21, 2009

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I’ve only been a regular Twitter user for a few months, but I’m already a veteran…spam target.

It’s no longer just about tweeting my thoughts and re-tweeting interesting posts by others. Now a good bit of my time is spend in responding to offers to make $300 a day or get 300 new followers – I’m not sure which. Then there are the busty nude women who want me to view their equally nude pictures. Just click this link.

On Twitter you’ll also find that celebrity you just followed – along with 10,000 others – is an impersonator.  So much for the inside scoop straight from the star’s mouth.

I’ve always taken Twitter seriously, so I don’t auto follow anyone. Instead, since I’m actually interested in what you have to say, I check out a new follower, read your posts, and see if you’re someone I’d like to follow. All too often I don’t. Recently I’ve gotten dozens of follows from tweeters who oddly enough all have the same five tweets in their stream. And, the top one is always that link to a new money making opportunity.

I seldom see spam in my e-mail inbox anymore. That’s thanks to better filters and the movement of tricksters, porn merchants and spammers over to Twitter and other social media sites.

The sheer volume of this spam traffic poses a threat to the community that Twitter has sought to build. Fighting spam isn’t cheap. One survey found that spam costs business about $21.58 billion in lost productivity annually. While it’s harder to gauge, Twitter users also suffer the lost time and frustration of dealing with a swarm of spam followers.

The more Twitter is dominated by spam, the more it tends to drive out legitimate users. Some people don’t want to venture into an X-rated wilderness. And, if you can’t trust the links you’re being sent even when they appear legit, maybe you’ll decide that Twitter isn’t for you.

So what should we as users do about spammers?

You can always ignore them. By not following back spammers you generally don’t have to see them (although some have taken to sending DMs or direct messages), but they could still be hurting you. “I want a quality follow list. I figure that everything associated with my Twitter account reflects on me,” says writer and cartoonist Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkyelbows) in a recent blog post, On Twitterspam, Followers and Culling.

I know Twitter has been making efforts to root out the spam. The company has even added “spam marshals.” A while back many users saw their follower numbers plunge as a horde of spammer bit the dust.

These are all good moves, but there are actions we can take on our own.

Use the spam button. When you find those identical tweets look down the right hand column for the report for spam link. Clicking this link blocks the spammer and notifies Twitter about the problem.

Know your links. Don’t venture into the no man’s land of spam by clicking on links in tweets from people you don’t know. If it looks like spam it probably is spam.

While you’re at it warn others to be wary of the spammers in their midst. And, one more thing, let Twitter know that you’ve noticed all the spam and you want them to do something about it as well. This isn’t the Wild West anymore and we need a new sheriff in town.

2 Responses to “Does Twittertown Need a New Sheriff?”

  1. Randy,

    You give good advice.

    Like you I don’t automatically follow anybody. I look at their tweets.

    • southwrite said

      Thanks, Susan. Spammers — like the poor — are with us always. The question becomes can we keep them to a manageable level so that their traffic doesn’t overwhelm the real purpose of social media?

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