The Noisy Channel

 

Are Spammers Taking Over Twitter?

June 27th, 2009 · 4 Comments · General

Until recently, I’ve noticed the occasional incdent where a Twitter “trending topic” was socially engineered by a spammer, usually by an application which auto-tweets on sign-up. But the problem seems to be getting noticeably worse.

Just a few days ago Habitat, a furniture store, used the trending topics as hashtags–including one associated with the disputed Iran election–to pimp their “totally desirable Spring collection”. It made for a great case study in how not to use Twitter.

And today I see that the top two trending topics are What McFLY Song Are and TweetBoard Alpha, both edging out #iranelection. The first spams through a quiz; the second through a request for invitations. It’s enough to make you want to scream, Stop Twitter Spam!

Of course, the solution may be to ignore the trending topics, which we can now see are easily gamed. Even when they’re legitimate, the topics aren’t necessarily all that useful. In the Twitterquake of Michael Jackson’s death, nine of the top ten trending topics related to the Gloved One–one of them even misspelled as Micheal. the tenth related to a hoax that Jeff Goldblum had died.

As I’ve said before, I actually look forward to a spamageddon that forces us to confront the attention scarcity problem head-on. At this rate, perhaps I won’t have to wait much longer.

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sam Michelson // Jun 28, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Because we opt-in who we want to follow – spammy people are easy to get rid of. The problem is for trends (a smarter algorithm would only count trends from people who have been vetted “followed” etc. by lots of people).

    Search can also be negatively affected – but that can also be remedied by raising teh bar on whose tweets are returned in search – perhaps you have a search that only returns results of people who have been members for a week – or about whom there are not a bunch of complaints, or who have not tweeted the same thing 100 times today. etc.

    Definitely a problem – but there should be reasonable solutions.

  • 2 Daniel Tunkelang // Jun 28, 2009 at 10:39 am

    We certainly pick whom we want to follow, but it’s not clear how well the follower graph actually represents the real use of Twitter. Many people often follow out of reciprocity rather than with the intention of actually paying attention to people (that’s why I proposed TunkRank as a better influence measure than follower count) and people use search to pay attention to users they don’t actually follow. We surely have a case of what Clay Shirky calls “filter failure”.

    As for trends (and search), certainly some kind of filtering or weighting approach is a necessity, whether global (e.g., based on some user quality measure) or at a personal level (e.g., favoring people in your social / trust network). I believe that Clean Tweets is on the right track, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’m personally fortunate that my interests are esoteric enough not to have fallen victim to spammers. At least not yet.

  • 3 allen // Jun 30, 2009 at 9:28 am

    As it is always said that bad things come hand in hand with something good and in this internet world the social media which provides you great traffic comes on first attack of spammers. But still if you use it smartly and safely you would never encountered much of spammers. But yes as one of the marketing technique people uses new and hot topic for there publicity but these things never last and as everyone knew life of spamming is short term and twitter is a social media website so it wont be affected much if human start using it correctly and people of twitters start advancing their security as per the requirement

  • 4 Are Duplicate Tweets Spam? | The Noisy Channel // Oct 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    […] pains, even if it just inherited the mother of all trust funds. They really do have to address spam. But they might consider doing so in a less heavy-handed way. I suspect that duplicate tweets are […]

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