Thursday, February 05, 2009

Five Steps for Keeping Your Twitter Stream Spam Free

It was bad enough that some of us have noticed a rise in "Twitter zombies"--now, thanks to a new commercial tool ( you may have to block more than you follow. Dancho Danchev in ZDNet describes this pesky pollution device as having the potential to "empower(ing) phishers, spammers, malware authors and everyone in between with the ability to generate bogus Twitter accounts and spread their campaigns across the micro-blogging service."

How does TweetTornado do its dirty deeds? Danchev says that it "allows users to create unlimited Twitter accounts, add unlimited number of followers, which combined with its ability to automatically update all of bogus accounts through proxy servers with an identical message make it the perfect Twitter spam tool." It essentially exploits a flaw in Twitter's new registration system that doesn't require valid email addresses for new subscribers. (see Danchev's post for more tech-oriented details.)

Oh, thanks a lot Twitter. How hard can it be to send out an automated message to validate new subscribers--and keep the rest of us safe?

Now, there may be a ton of aggressive marketers (as well as nefarious spammers, phishers, etc.) that will think TweetTornado is a cool tool for helping them get their messages into *your* unsuspecting Twitter stream. That's where the best defense is a good offense. Here are a five short steps for keeping your Twitter stream spam-free:

  • 1. Never automatically follow anyone!

  • 2. Read the tweets. What's the content? are they saying anything cool? Linking to anything good? (but be careful of the links! they could take you somewhere you don't want to go.)

  • 3. Check how many followers they have. If they are following tons of people, but few are following back, something's not cool.

  • 4. Read profiles. What does the profile tell you about the follower?

  • 5. Feel free to block! Twitter isn't a contest. It doesn't help you to have as many people follow you as you can get. Esp. if those followers are doing nothing for your stream--and might even be polluting it with spam and phishing schemes.

  • And if you inadvertently end up following a spammer, or even if somebody you think is ok begins to overly-self promote (or some other weirdness starts to occur), there's nothing wrong with un-following and even blocking. I will un-follow someone if I get a "gut feeling" about them, and I will definitely block a spammer. Whether it's a porn spammer, a phisher, or an overly aggressive marketer, spam is spam. Do away with it a.s.a.p.!

    The key is to use your good judgment. And eventually, TweetTornado will end up in the deadpool.

    Further: TechCrunch IT mentions "twitter squatting" The Twitter equivalent of domain squatting. And it was bound to happen.

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