Quoted in Guardian on Twitter Spam

I got a passing quote and link in this Guardian technology article: “Why are there no spam or trolls on Twitter?” by Kate Bevan, jumping off from Russell Beattie’s musings on the topic. I would dispute the titles of both articles; there absolutely are spammers (and trolls) on Twitter. The articles do append their praise of the Twitter community with the qualification that spamming and trolling can and do happen on Twitter, but the offenders are less able to impinge upon your attention because of follower-based grouping and customizable and notification settings. Now, I keep email notifications of new followers on, and the results speak for themselves:

Inbox full of Twitter spam

Those are multiple follow notifications from several Twitter accounts registered by toy store affiliates attempting to boost page rank through bogus links across various social networks and content hosts. This was months ago, and till now many of those spam accounts are still up.

In Twitter’s defense, they’re fairly responsive to complaints about spammers on their support forum. In addition, rel="nofollow" is added to all links in the Twitter stream, ReCaptcha is now used in the signup form, and an internal filtering process watches members’ following and blocking activity for indicative patterns. These measures are major improvements from the last time I complained, and they do much to disincentivize link spammers, though I wouldn’t mind a more direct flag-and-report mechanism such as that used by Blogger.

(I’ve talked a lot about Twitter spam, but not about Twitter trolls. That’s because the term in its original internet discussion sense — referring to mischievous users who post inflammatory content with the intent of provocation — is highly subjective and has been diluted over years of online argument to refer to pretty much anyone who expresses disagreement with community groupthink. But I’m sure there’s someone out there on Twitter who’s posting snippets of mean-spirited unpleasantness designed to sow chaos. But, as mentioned, Twitter makes it quite easy to ignore and block those types.)