It looks like the time has arrived for Twitter to step up to the plate and do something about this spam problem. Over this past weekend, I received over 20 different email notifications that so and so was following me on twitter. Only 3 of those people were legit. The rest of them were spammers who were following thousands of people and the only updates they had made to their account were spammy links.
Adam Ostrow of Mashable correctly identified some time ago that Twitter was going to undergo a spam explosion and his prediction appears to have come true. In fact, he recently wrote another article highlighting his inability to sleep because of the constant buzzing noise his BlackBerry was making due to spammers following his account.
Then, I come across an interesting experiment through Twitter. There is a user on Twitter who goes by the name of RU4Real. The name has a purpose. The account was created by someone named Nantel as an experiment to see how many people would automatically follow a spam bot without first checking the content that said user has posted. As it stands, the account is following 5,484 users with 98 of those following this account. It’s already been discussed that the majority of the followers most likely have their Twitter account configured to automatically follow anyone that follows them.
Here is how the project has progressed thus far:
I created a new Twitter account that specifically tells people what it’s for and not to follow it. I then followed >5200 Twitter feeds to see who would reciprocate without reading. At last count, it had 94 followers. Interestingly, an additional 41 people initially followed me back, but then read the account description and changed their mind (good!). I also had to block 3 others that admitted following RU4Real even though they knew that it was an experiment.
I’ve also received some requests for my real Twitter account. Just don’t expect me to blindly follow you back
There is also need for you to block the account, it will be deleted once the experiment is over.
Phase 2 will begin once it gets 100 followers. During this period, I won’t add anybody else until the weekend to see if I can attract those spam followers that have been annoying everyone.
This is at best a very interesting experiment. Now, the recent poll put up by Mashable asks the question, Is it time for Twitter to move aggressively to prevent spammy accounts? The results so far speak for themselves. 359 people have voted yes compared to 30 people who have voted no. Of course, if you don’t use Twitter then you obviously could care less. But for those who actually use the service such as myself, I think it’s time for Twitter to take Adam’s suggestion of at least implementing a CAPTCHA solution that is presented to user’s after you press the follow button. This is the bare minimum that should be done to combat this problem of spam.
How about you? Have you received a major influx of spammy twitter accounts choosing to follow you? What other suggestions can you think of that would help Twitter deal with spam more effectively?
As a side note, if you take a look at the following image quite a few people who are following RU4Real are big names on the web.