PLEASE Report and Block Twitter Spammers

It’s getting completely out of control.

This afternoon, I received @ replies from three different Twitter users who do not follow me, all of which contained spammy content. All three messages were obviously automatically generated based on a key word I’d included in a tweet:

  • Spammer 1 invited me to a “Free Procrastination Seminar” after I used the word procrastination in a tweet.
  • Spammer 2 pointed me and a Twitter friend to a site that sells face masks after I suggested that my friend wear a face mask when cleaning out a dusty hay barn.
  • Spammer 3 pointed me and a Twitter friend to a site that sells MacBook Pro batteries after my friend and I had a Twitter exchange about his MBP battery.

It’s bad enough that everyone and his uncle is trying to use Twitter to promote themselves and their businesses. But now they’ve set up empty Twitter accounts and are using automated tools to send out Tweets that promote their products or services based on key word matches. That means they could be sending out hundreds or thousands of advertising tweets per day, clogging up your Twitter timeline with their crap.

I, for one, am sick of it.

There are two things you can do to help stop Twitter spam:

  • Follow @spam on Twitter. This is a special account monitored by the folks at Twitter. Once you follow @spam, it will follow you back. You can then send direct messages to @spam when you want to report a spammer. For example, you might compose a message like this:

    d spam @spamguy123 is sending me unsolicited advertisements.

    The folks at Twitter investigate legitimate spam complaints. In addition, @spam sends out periodic tweets about using Twitter safely, so you might pick up a few useful tips.

  • Block spammers. If you get followed by a spammer or received an @reply with spammy content, take a moment to block that Twitter user. The folks at Twitter take blocking into consideration when evaluating spam reports and account activity.

You can learn more about reporting Spam to Twitter here.

Please don’t just ignore the spammers. Do something to stop them. Only if we all act can we get a better handle on the situation. The folks at Twitter hate spam even more than we do. It clogs their bandwidth and stretches the resources of their servers. If we help them identify spammers, they’ll help us by suspending their accounts.

Spread the word.

October 16 Update: A new Twitter feature makes it quicker and easier to report spam. Learn more about it here.

23 thoughts on “PLEASE Report and Block Twitter Spammers

  1. thanks for that info. I guess I am not important enough to even get spammed yet but will remember your advice.

    • Donald: It’s not a matter of being important. Apparently it’s a matter of tweeting often, using the keywords these a**holes have programmed into their automated following/replying tools. I tweet like I have diarrhea of the keyboard, so I’m a pretty obvious target for this. Consider yourself lucky; I now get 1 to 5 of these automated spam messages (or followers) a day.

  2. I get spammed occasionally. And I block spammers. Fortunately, I haven’t yet had to deal with more than a few. Now that I’m tweeting more often and both follow more people and have more followers, that unfortunately may change. Trolls, however, are a real problem; they actually drove Trent Reznor away from Twitter altogether.

    Now, if only one could post a tweet including the words “note to self” without activating the annoying @NoteRobot…

  3. Dennis: Annoyed by the @NoteRobot (as I was)? Block it. It won’t see your tweets and won’t tweet back an @reply/@mention. I block all accounts that generate automated content with an @mention of my account.

    Rick: I don’t think I do that much, but thanks!

    Debra: They sure sound like automated spambots to me. Block ’em!

  4. i dont mind it … i got an I WISH one where i had said i wished for something bladdy bladdy blah

    its an @ … you dont have to click it, rt it, or even look at it let alone follow them … quit your cryin and let people do what they want

  5. Great post but not entirely the best way. Read this from the Twitter team itself:

    “It’s better to send a direct message over an @reply. Direct messaging keeps @replies reporting spam out of your followers’ time lines. Sending direct messages also keeps the spam account’s user name out of all search results. Because the message is private, you prevent them from benefitting from publicity.”

    Cheers!

    • The @ reply was mentioned in the original Twitter blog post on Twitter.com. I agree, though: a DM is better. It keeps it private. The only exception is if you think others who follow you and @spam might also want to blog the offender. I use DMs to report spammers, then block them. I have ZERO tolerance for spam.

    • Leesa: You might need to follow @spam to be able to send them a DM. Normally, a Twitter user has to follow you for you to be able to DM them. I see that far more people follow @spam than @spam follows, so I’m starting to wonder whether the account is still active.

      Blocking always helps, though. If that’s all you can do, do it! Every little bit helps.

  6. @Maria Langer

    I don’t think @spam has been following back for at least several months, which disallows DM’ing them (you can only DM your followers). Although I haven’t done it, if it’s a chronic problem (i.e. the Britney f***’ed pornbot), and you didn’t want to call them out publicly, you might be able to log the issue thru twitter support the same way you would report another twitter bug. I’ve been blocking the spammers as soon as they follow or @me with a repetitive spammy message.

    • DougP1: You may be right. This post is getting a lot of attention now, but it was written back in July when reporting spam to @spam via @ reply or DM was the recommended way to bring Twitter’s attention to a spammer. I don’t know what the solution is now. I know that I still can DM to @spam so that’s what I do. I also know that blocking a spammer is highly recommended. Unfortunately, blocking spammers is only effective if we ALL do it. That’s why I continue to urge Twitter users to block spammers.

  7. Unfortunately most people are lazy and can’t be bothered with blocking and @spam seems to me to be ignored as they would get a hundred messages a second. Most people just say it doesn’t work and move on.

    My advice is to use an auto-blocking service like TwitChuck which will auto-block spammer as defined by the number of people who block them, like those reading blogs. Note most people do not know about blogs, RSS, or social media outside of their use of Facebook.

  8. Maria,

    Do you think sending DMs to the spam acct does anything? I block/report about 12-15 accounts a day MINIMUM. (I use the DM). I’m pulling my hair out. I don’t know what to do since it seems to keep getting worse and worse!

    Most of the accounts I block are those scantily clad avatar ones. I have no idea why I get so many of these “followers” but I used an application last week to check my account and I had blocked 646 accounts.

    I have blocked many more since. Other accounts I block include money-making schemes, teeth-whitening accounts, people claiming to have the secret to 10,000 followers, etc.

    I also block anyone who uses hate speech or excessive profanity. This last category was never an issue until fairly recently.

    You get the idea. This is getting totally out of hand. I have tried installing applications to block spam. For example, if you were to follow me now, you’d have to do a word verification. I was hoping this would cut out enough robots to make a difference. This same program has helped a friend of mine quite a bit. It seemed slightly helpful at first and now I’m back to getting more spam than ever.

    I love twitter because it’s great for creating awareness of illnesses or for rallying support for causes… and for connecting with fellow chronically ill patients.

    The amount of spam I have been getting, though, if really tarnishing my twitter experience. Because I am chronically ill, I have limited energy. To spend so much time/energy blocking and reporting (as I faithfully do) would be worth it IF it started to make a dent in the problem.

    Instead, the problem seems to be escalating over time. I’ve been on twitter since 2007 and I remember the days of no spam at all. I know those days are gone but I sure wish twitter would get a handle on this problem.

    They may hate the spam as much as we do but their efforts to solve the problem don’t appear to be very effective.

    Do you have any comparisons between different blocking apps? For example, Ian above mentioned TwitChuck (which I had never heard of). One that I have used is TwitBlock. Any particular application better than another?

    Does anyone have any suggestions? This is getting really out of control…

    Thanks!

    Jeanne

    • Jeanne: It IS out of control, but it won’t get better unless we all do something about it. Blocking DOES help if everyone who gets spam blocks the spammer. The folks at Twitter have automated tools to identify spammers and one of the things they take into consideration is how many people have blocked the spammer. The more blocks, the more likely the account will get flagged.

      As for the @spam account, I’m not sure if it’s still working or not. I wrote this blog post in July when it was.

      I don’t seem to have nearly as much trouble as you do with spam. I get maybe 5-10 new spam followers a day. I’ve had my Twitter account for over 2 years and have tweeted over 16,000 times. I should be a target, but apparently I’m not. Perhaps it’s because I don’t autofollow anyone?

      If the spammers are driving you nuts, here’s some advice: turn off new follower notifications. Then you won’t get those e-mails. Instead, pay close attention to the @replies and @mentions you get. Follow up on those to find real people you can interact with — along with the occasional spammer who is using automated tools to @reply based on the content of one of your tweets.

      As for the spam blocking tools, I’m not willing to pay for a tool (TwitChuck) to work with a free service (Twitter), so I haven’t tried any of them. Perhaps someone else reading this can fill you in.

  9. Do you think that the people at Twitter are as concerned as they make out about this issue? I only get about 1 spam email a week through my Gmail account so the algorithms that could go a long way to solving the problem do exist.

    • @Steve: I think they have a bunch of good algorithms in place, but they can’t recognize a spammer until he/she starts spamming. Blocking and reporting does two things: First, it prevents you from being bothered by the spammer again. Second, it flags the spammer’s account for review. One click; it’s pretty easy. A bunch of Twitter clients support it, too.

What do you think?