Are Duplicate Tweets Spam?

The Twitterverse is all a-twitter with a new controversy: Twitter has rolled out a new feature that blocks duplicate tweets. They reported to the SocialOomph blog that:

Recurring Tweets are a violation no matter how they are done, including whether or not someone pays you to have a special privilege. We don’t want to see any duplicate tweets whatsoever- They pollute Twitter, and tools shouldn’t be given to enable people to break the rules. Spinnable text seems to just be a way to bypass the rules against duplicate updates and essentially provides the same problems.

Hence, from Thursday, October 15th, 2009, 00:00 AM CST we will prevent the entry of recurring tweets on Twitter accounts within the SocialOomph system. Existing recurring tweets on Twitter accounts will all be placed in paused state at that time, so that the content of the tweet text is still accessible to you, but no publishing to Twitter of those tweets will take place.

Not everyone is thrilled with this new feature. My friend (and Noisy Channel reader) Eric Andersen notes: “this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – many highly regarded Twitter users (e.g. @GuyKawasaki) regularly re-post tweets…primarily because of the “dip” model: re-posting the same tweet means more people will see, especially with an int’l audience.”

On one hand, I loathe inefficient communication, and I see repeated tweets as exposing the inefficiency of the dip model. We won’t get into my differences of opinion with Guy Kawasaki. If Twitter offered better search and control to users, then I think it would make sense for them to consider duplicate tweets as a spam issue.

On the other hand, Twitter search is crude. And the dip model, much as it may raise my personal hackles, is, in fact, what many users embrace. Twitter takes pride in letting users drive innovation, and I think they should be cautious about being too autocratic. Surely many of the people who post duplicate tweets do so with unspammy intentions.

Let’s face it: Twitter is going through growing 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 mainly a problem because they affect the statistics for Trending Topics–a problem they could easily address without prohibiting the tweets themselves. Better search would make it users to take charge of the user experience–a small dose of HCIR would go a long way.

I think Twitter has the best of intentions, and that it is confronting a real problem. I hope they work harder to find the right solution.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

3 replies on “Are Duplicate Tweets Spam?”

I am more after deduplication in services like Yoono. So many people update status in several places at once that if you use an aggregator you see the same tweets three times (Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed). This is not something Twitter can address – I wish aggregator services did.


So duplicate tweets are now taboo, will this result in work-arounds? We already have the .@LilMissSocMedia starting comments so people not following both users can see a reply. Will we now have 1st tweet as “Hey Everyone, Read my Blog post” then to repeat later slightly changed as “.Hey Everyone, Read my Blog post” and the third time would be “..Hey Everyone, Read my Blog post“? There are too many potential work-arounds with creative punctuation.

Also – what about the “great to see you” posts you may send to a friend. What if you send a tweet with the same text 6 months later….it’s not intended spamming, but will it get through? I didn’t see any mention of a time frame, so will a ‘paused’ tweet eventually get released?


I believe the time frame is 24 hours (at least according to TechCrunch).

But you’re right, actual spammers can easily defeat exact duplicate detection, while innocent duplication will be verboten. It’s a problem, and I think Twitter is not only being heavy-handed, but also failing to recognize that it has played a part in creating this problem.


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