March 07, 2009

The Newest Annoyance on Twitter: Follow and Refollow Spam

Unless you've turned off notifications when users follow you on Twitter, you are no doubt used to the e-mail messages you get when somebody has opted into seeing your updates. Follower updates are a staple of social services - and if you are maniacal about keeping e-mail like I am, you can start to see trends on the data, including when people are oddly manipulating the system, in a way that's not normal. And for whatever reason, a small number of Twitter accounts look like they regularly follow me multiple times a day.

I use auto-follow capabilities from SocialToo, letting me automatically opt in to see followers' updates. The way I use Twitter means there is little downside to having new incremental users in my feeds. So, in theory, if the user follows me just once - it's one and done. And I just don't see too much benefit to these new follow and refollow bots, even if I try to get creative.

Take a look at two examples: @PoliticalUpdate and

Twice a day, starting on February 27th, I have been followed by, the first time at 3:56 a.m. my time, and a second time, at 5 p.m. that same day. Every day.

Also starting on February 27th, the account @PoliticalUpdate has been following twice a day - at 2:34 a.m. my time, and a second time after 11:35 a.m. (only nine hours later). Again, every single day.

So what is the benefit of such a clearly robotic practice? Is the idea that the follow notifications are a form of advertising, giving me a chance to see their name more than once, and increasing the times I'll go to check out their Twitter page? Do they also think we're naive enough to not notice?

Whatever product it is that both @PoliticalUpdate and are using does not contribute to the community in any way, and should be turned off. There is some good news, I guess, in that the account looks to have been suspended, but my bet is that there are more accounts out there using the same service, and it should be stopped.

Know any other accounts who are using follow and refollow spam? Let me know in the comments. Jesse Stay, who runs SocialToo, and I would absolutely be interested in keeping them out of your in box.

(Also: See an earlier discussion on FriendFeed)