Twitter spam is still increasing and it is not always easy to recognize a spammer, especially if you are using 3rd party software that does not display all of the content that you would be able to see by visiting the main Twitter website. The standard list of characteristics of a spammy twitter account include:
- They are an egg, they have not uploaded a personal profile picture or an avatar.
- They are using a provocative or sexy profile picture
- They have no followers
- They have not posted any tweets
- They post repetitive tweets with the same link
- They are not on any user-created lists, excluding @formulists and other automatically generated lists.
- They include a random alphanumeric string in their username
- They don’t talk to anyone
- They either don’t fill in their bio or focus on coupon offers, making easy money, or following back
- They disguise their website address with a short link
However, as Twitter matures the spammers are also getting more sophisticated. Take a look at this screenshot and see if you can spot the identifying features.
It’s not too obvious because there’s a photograph that looks like a real person, a name that matches the probable gender and ethnicity of the person in the photograph, even an appropriate geographic location tag. However, the url listed in the bio is extremely likely to link to an adult services website, which may or may not contain malware, viruses and other harmful content.
To clarify, if this was a genuine adult account, it would be in their best interests to adhere to Twitter’s Media Settings and Best Practice guidelines. At the very least, it would be expected that a genuine user who is using twitter as a promotion tool for commercial activities will take the time to fill out the description field in their bio.
A further indication that this is a spam account comes from the follower ratio, which is showing well over 7 times the number of followed accounts than followers. With a new twitter account that is not tied to an existing brand or celebrity, follower numbers tend to grow slowly and maintain a much more even ratio between following and followers. Spammers still frequently pursue that tactic of following mass numbers of accounts to acquire followers who are using automated systems to artificially increase their follower counts, before mass unfollowing to achieve the appearance of influencer status.
A quick trip to this spam account’s profile page yields a few more pieces of information, most importantly that this account shows no form of interaction. The account has been active for just under a month and their tweet stream is full of broadcast messages; no links to external resources, no image tweets, no retweets and no @mentions.
There are a number of ways to deal with spam accounts, which boils down to three basic actions, ignore, block or report.
Ignoring a spammer who is not active but simply trying to game the system will have very little effect and they will generally unfollow you, if you have not followed back within a predefined period of time.
Most people will ignore the ‘block’ option, as there are very few times where you would not want someone to be following you on twitter. An analysis of who finds your content interesting should not affect your reputation on a public broadcasting system. Moreover, if anyone is that concerned about people following them on twitter they will tend to set their tweets to private.
The report function comes into play where a spammer is using @mentions to associate your account with their products, services or malicious links. Here it is critical to report & block any spam activity in order to protect yourself and your followers from inadvertently clicking on a bad link, as well as to remove any inappropriate content or associations. This comes down to active monitoring of your interactions stream and more and more people taking responsibility for reporting and blocking spammers.