Tag Archives: scammers

the spambots on twitter are completely out of control

A few months ago, Twitter changed their @replies tab into something called @mentions. This had a significant impact on a lot of us who use Twitter, especially those of us with a large number of followers.

Originally, I'd only see a message with @wilw in it if that's the way the message began. It worked very well, and there was much rejoicing.

Then someone at Twitter decided to change the way it worked. From that day forward, whenever someone used @[your twitter name] anywhere in the body of the message, it would show up as a "mention" in tab that was until-recently-known as replies.

I know a lot of other Twitter users with lots of followers didn't like the change, because for many of them it turned an already-busy replies tab into an avalanche of mentions that was nearly-impossible to keep up with. I can only speak for myself, but I probably only see 10% of the actual @wilw messages that are sent now, because there are so many of them, I just can't keep up.

I have always said that Twitter is a free service, and it's pretty unseemly for us to complain about it because we're not paying for it, but I've also begged Twitter to let me give them money in exchange for a few features, or even just because I love the service so much. So far, my pleas have fallen on deaf ears (or maybe they're so buried in mentions that they never see them.)

Anyway, about a month or five weeks ago, I started to notice a severe spambot problem on Twitter. Obviously, some mother fucker douchebag pile of shit figured out a way to write a script that exploits weaknesses in the signup process, and every Friday (maybe to hide among the higher-volume "follow Friday" Tweets) my @mentions tab is flooded with these goddamn spam bots. 

For example, here's a screenshot of my @mentions, taken just a few minutes ago:


I hope that Twitter is taking proactive steps to do something about this, but I don't see any mention of it on their official blog or status page. I hope that they're not just ignoring it, because it's not like there's a whole lot of random crap that needs to be sorted out here: The bots all post from API, they all use identical phrasing, and there is certainly enough of a pattern to the abuse that someone at Twitter HQ should be able to automate blocking them. I've reported dozens of them to @spam, but it doesn't seem to be having an effect.

It's gotten so frustrating that I'm not using Twitter until the problem is resolved*. I genuinely enjoy the interaction I get to have with other people via @messages (I often call Twitter "time-shifted, asynchronous instant messaging") and I since this started yesterday, it's just too much work – and too infuriating – to dig through all the goddamn spammer bullshit to find the legitimate messages.

I've used nest.unclutterer, but the spambots are smart enough not to follow too many accounts. I've tried to use Twitblock, but it chokes before it can finish (that looks like it's going to be an incredibly useful app, once it's out of alpha and beta and gets to lambda lambda lambda.)

I know other high-profile Twitter users have been targeted by these scripts, and I know that a lot of them are expressing similar frustrations. I don't know if they use Twitter the same way I do, but for those who use it as an actual communication tool, and not just a broadcasting platform, it's got to be just as annoying as it is for me.

I love Twitter, and I am incredibly grateful for how it's helped me reach out to and interact with hundreds of thousands of new people. I just hope that someone at Twitter is listening, and is trying to do something about a spam and abuse problem that is threatening to overwhelm an otherwise-awesome service.

* I want need to clarify: THIS IS NOT A BOYCOTT, and I wish people would stop suggesting that it is. This isn't some kind of stupid threat, or the suggestion that I'm taking my football and going home. It's more like deciding not to go to a place you've always loved until the owners clean it up, because it's gotten so filthy you can't stand it.