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Twitter needs to act urgently on direct message spam


As Twitter has grown, its appeal to spammers has grown along with it. From the earliest days of Twitter, spammers started targeting the service, but sadly the problem is becoming far, far worse.

The latest craze in Twitter spam is fake followers, who send a direct message to Twitter users stating something along the lines of “thanks for following me, check out my site (link).” I use the word craze in context: this form of spam isn’t new on Twitter, but it’s currently surging.

The picture above shows the DM spam I’ve received in the last 7 hours alone…and the rate is increasing. Before writing this post, I had three in a matter of 10 minutes. I can block them, or report them as they appear, but they are quickly replaced by new accounts.

There’s no official word from Twitter as to what they’re doing about the problem, if anything. The Twitter Spam account hasn’t been updated since July 13 (and before that June 30…then June 14) and the Twitter blog says nothing of the problem.

If they aren’t dong anything about it, they need to urgently. This spam is a cancer on Twitter and risks undermining the usefulness of the Twitter direct message system. It’s annoying enough for established Twitter users, but I’d think it would be worse again for newer users, and could in some cases scare them away, undermining Twitter’s growth potential going forward.

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6 Responses to “Twitter needs to act urgently on direct message spam”

  1. Alex

    So many spammers around. How can twitter solve this? They should be thinking on how to fight those.

  2. matpacker

    I couldn't agree with you more Duncan. I'm so over spam in all forms, be it bands on myspace over promoting their new gig, or this 'marketer' spam on Twitter.

    Hopefully Biz and co. pull their fingers out shortly and actually do something about it otherwise I can see it becoming even more of a domain for marketers than it is now.

  3. Joost Schuur

    I agee with Damir (although ironically his triple post might be considered a form of spam too). You can't get a DM unless you follow the person. Auto-following never made sense to me. Why polute your own twitter stream without vetting who is going to turn up in it? And if you followed these people manually, then you didn't do proper due diligence before you hit the follow button.

    The real spam problem that's worth highlighting is both people embedding spam with bot accounts in trending topics comments, and people @replying to you in public with spam URLs. There's not much anyone but Twitter can do, and those devalue the Twitter experience for everyone.

    I once emailed Twitter support asking if it was even worth it to report trending topic spammers, since the damage was already done by the time I see it, and they could just automatically create new accounts when they are finally deleted. I got a fairly generic templated response back about how I should keep blocking people and report them to @spam, but it didn't get into how effective that really is.

    I suspect Twitter's approach to spam is to quietly deal with it behind the scenes and not encourage of tip off spammers by discussing their methodology too much in public.

  4. Snead

    I had the same problem — first it was a trickle of direct-message spam, being forwarded to me via notifications to my Yahoo inbox.

    Then it really started picking up steam this week.

    I have received about 50 in the past day, clogging up my email and making notifications totally useless.

    First, I wrote to the Twitter spam page folks. Then I disabled notifications, but somehow the notifications kept on coming to my Yahoo inbox!

    So I did the only logical thing: I deleted my Twitter account.

  5. Snead


    You say, “You can't get a DM unless you follow the person.” But, I'm sorry to say, that's just not true.

    I have been receiving tons and tons of Direct Messages from Twitter spammers who are not on my list of followers.

    You say they can't do it, but I have notifications to prove they can — and do. And it's all garbage spam, “free gifts” which are nothing but links to their online spam projects.

  6. Joost Schuur

    Odd. Are they using an exploit then that doesn't work through the main interface, but let's them DM people who don't follow them anyway? I've never gotten a single DM spam (although plenty of spam account follow me and I block most), and just the other day I tried to DM someone who doesn't follow me and was told I couldn't for that reason.

    If there's a DM exploit out there, then that's certainly a bigger issue.

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