Posted August 12, 2008 9:58 am by with 27 comments

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Just a few days ago, Twitter warned that its new efforts to combat spam would become more noticable over the coming days.

Recently, we’ve seen significant impact by introducing limits around how many accounts can be followed on Twitter under certain conditions. These limits are designed to not affect the vast majority of users. However, some people (who are not spammers) have (and will) run into them.

Those days are here.

Brent Csutoras documents one case where a Twitter account, with 830 followers, and 5,616 updates, was prevented from following more than 2,000 people.

This morning I went to test and see if I could follow more than 2,000 and found that I was still given the error message.

I talked to a buddy, who did the same test over the weekend, and as of today he also has the same message and result.

Twitter is not the only one to try and combat spam. Reports suggest rival Pownce is doing the same.

So, why is spam even an issue, when you have to actually "follow" the spammer, in order for him to be effective. Well, I’m not a spammer, so I’m not sure, but here’s one scenario that Twitter could be attempting to prevent.

If spammer "Viagra4U" followed 10,000 other Twitter users, the chances are that most of those users would have their account set up to alert them of any new followers. Now, Viagra4U’s profile includes a spam/trojan link, and his updates likewise do the same. If enough people clicked through to view just who "Viagra4U" was–and why did he follow them–some of them might just click on a link.

You may be savvy enough to not fall for the above, but plenty of others don’t share your mad Twitter skilz.

Anyway, what do you think of the limits? Are they needed? Or has Twitter gone too far?

  • I for one like the idea. I don’t know how you can possibly follow 2000 people anyway. I have trouble with 250.

    The CSRF flaw still hasn’t been fixed either so at least limit it until it has been or it will get out of control.

    TheMadHat’s last blog post..Google Images Thinks I Fail At Upskirt Voyerism

  • I think that some form of anti-spam practice is needed for twitter as it’s becoming ever so popular. Therefore more visitors = more spammers.
    Twitter is being a victim of their own success.
    Will placing following limits reduce spam? I don’t think so.
    On a side note, why do spammers even bother do such techniques. It just doesn’t work. What’s the point of spending hours following twitterers for the sake of a few dozen untargeted clicks?!

    SEO I-COM’s last blog post..Can’t find that ‘online guru’ online? He’s not a search marketer.

  • I think twitter on a marketing level is awesome for gaining prospects, but as far as using it as a method to promote spam seems stupid. I mean I only follow people that I think have an authentic value. If those people promote something through twitter, i take a look at it. If there are people out there that follow anyone that follows them then they are kinda asking for spam. In social networks I never accept all of the friend request I get, otherwise I would have hundreds of bands that I have never heard of and several thousand porn stars. I mean really I feel that spam in social networks can kind of organicall fail on its own, it doesn’t need help from twitter, in doing so twitter runs the risk of creating a bad reputation by limiting obviously popular users.

    Joe Hall’s last blog post..Hitwise data misses the mark when it comes to Real Estate.

  • It makes sense, I don’t see how people can follow 2000+ ppl.

    I know there are scripts out there to automatically add followers. Some are even advanced enough to do this in a two-step process. After following the user they will check to see they are following back, if not they will drop the connection in a few days.

    I would even set it to randomly drop some users who follow anyway, to give a better looking follow/follower ratio (i.e. more followers than following and some one-way).

    Nick Wilsdon’s last blog post..Google, Ethics and The Myths of Social Media: An Interview with Jill Whalen

  • It makes sense to me as well. Untill twitter reaches a better methodology to filter these spammers a follower limit is the best of now.

    San Nayak’s last blog post..Visiting San Francisco, California

  • It’s bullshit. It’s easy to follow 2,000+ people…you just don’t follow them 24/7.

    To impose the restrictions on somebody like me who has 1,400+ followers and 2,500+ updates is ridiculous.

  • I agree with Todd. I hate it. I have a large base of people that follow me and actively use it and now I am limited to what I can do.

    Bobby Finstock’s last blog post..What Female Athletes Have the Most Casual Moral Attitudes?

  • As a webmaster I put nofollow on all links I don’t control. Who know what people will link to and how Google will react. Better be safe than sorry. This is why I don’t blame Twitter.

    Dr Marketing’s last blog post..The truth about Nigerian spam emails

  • you don’t really need to follow that many people on twitter anyways… I’d rather have a lot of people follow me, then me follow a lot of people

    Millionaire’s last blog (Meet Rich People Online)

  • I think twitter just needs to teach its users how to control spam better. Maybe it needs to be a requirement to accept followers or something. But capping the number of followers?

    Fifty Studio’s last blog post..Win Batman Dark Knight tickets

  • It makes sense… 2,000 is plenty of people to follow I would think?

  • @Fifty Studio – It’s a cap on the number of people you can follow, not your followers.

    The limit isn’t 2,000. It’s whatever the Twitter algorithm decides your limit should be. Mine is currently 666.

    The idea that you would have a lot of people following you but not follow many people is a bit greedy, isn’t it? Frankly, I want the relationship to be mutual. It’s quite easy to follow 2000+ people if you’re scanning for topics of interest and not doing it 24/7.

    Twitter shouldn’t be trying to “filter the spammers.” If you aren’t interested, don’t return the follow. Why are you clicking on their website in their profile if you aren’t interested? Just let the marketplace work these things out, it’s what Web 2.0 is all about anyway.

    Don Draper’s last blog post..Twitter Gave Me the Mark of the Beast

  • I agree with the scenario above. But I think they should lower the limit. Like others said, 2000 is too much for normal users to follow.

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  • Smap control is the very thing every user should learn

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  • They should disable notifications about followers by default.

    Symbian’s last blog post..Nokia Chat – new location based messenger

  • There should be more options in choosing how to ‘follow’ someone: full follow, when you do receive updates, and a soft follow, where you just reciprocate out of politeness maybe but you’re not notified of updates.
    I don’t believe that any capping should be enabled though: if you willingly follow people you don’t know, with dodgy profiles and sites, well then, you should know you’re in for a ‘treat’. I’d let the system self-regulate on this.

    Otilia Otlacan’s last blog post..comScore Enhances Reporting of Ad Networks’ Audiences – YuMe Concerns Addressed

  • There are people who rush to add followers, expecting something like 10% or so to follow them back.

    Some traffic may stick, if the content is good. For new bloggers, it is an in-your-face kind of promotion which is also an attraction of Twitter, especially for marketers.

    Restricting these members to 2000 may just push them to other sites.

    jeflin’s last blog post..Overhead Supply Can Trap Your Money

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  • @jeflin
    You are right, I have seen plug in that you can use with mozilla to follow huge list of people just browsing a person’s profile, the matrix is 10% will at least follow you and latter you can just delete these people from your following list. This seems to be working great for marketing purpose, hence a bad luck to them now.

    San Nayak’s last blog post..Ways to Check Content Plagiarism

  • I think 2000 is too little. perhaps 5k?

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..Mobile SEO – SMX Local Mobile 2008 Presentation

  • I think it’s a great idea

    It will force people to sharpen their game up and actually write something that others will be engaged by…

    Andy’s last blog post..ON Proud To Sponsor The 2008 Europa Super Show & Sports Expo

  • I don’t have a problem with this.

    I review every new follower and at least half are people peddling something I don’t want.

    If someone has something worth listening to, they’ll get the followers. It takes time, and you have to bring value, but it will happen.

    patrick byers’s last blog post..Are you ready to compete?

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  • Controlling spam is not easy and twitter has to take these not so accepted methods to combat spam.

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