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Twitter spam and motivation to report it

I don’t know how Twitter handles spam internally. They’re probably devoting a lot of time to fighting it.

But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to observe so much repetition in the still-visible spam techniques and conclude that Twitter is being extremely conservative about deploying automated heuristics, relying heavily on the “Report Spam” feature instead.

Spam-fighting is always a tricky balance: if it’s too aggressive and automated, it’ll prevent some legitimate messages from reaching their recipients. But if it’s too conservative or manually triggered by user reports, a lot of spam will get through.

The operators of spammable services need to decide where their priorities are on that spectrum: severely annoy a small number of your users by not delivering some legitimate messages, or moderately annoy a large number of your users by showing them too much spam.

Twitter seems to have chosen the latter. At this point, given their resources, it’s almost certainly a philosophical choice — e.g. “every message must be delivered” — and not because of a lack of spam-fighting abilities.

There are three big problems with this approach:

Fundamentally, I believe Twitter’s priorities here are wrong. Twitter needs a far more aggressive, automated, proactive, heuristic-based anti-spam system. And if someone has trouble legitimately tweeting a link with no text to 100 people in a row who don’t follow them at precise 1-minute intervals, that’s just the price we’ll have to pay.

In the meantime, I’m never using the “Report Spam” feature again, because it just seems like I’m wasting my time.

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