Here Comes Twitter Spam And How To Fight It

A spam-less Twitter feed might just be too good to be true. Spam is becoming an increasing problem on Twitter and something has to be done to separate the wheat from the chaff. Spammers are using Twitter as a tool by replying to your @username, which then causes the Tweets to show up in your timeline. There isn’t really a way to filter Twitter spam directly from a Twitter client. But there may be soon.

Loic Le Meur has proposed to add a “report as spam” button to the Twitter desktop clients his company has created, Twhirl and Seesmic Desktop. This button would flag the spammer to Twitter (or to a separate database of users) and Seesmic or Twhirl could then exclude the spammer from its client apps after a sufficient number of users report them as spam. Le Meur also says that the clients would manually check the potential spammers to ensure that they are actually spammers.

After the clients are established as spammers, Twitter could then delete or block the user accounts. Le Meur says that his Twitter clients will soon include a “report as spam” button and is calling on fellow popular Twitter clients, Tweetdeck and Tweetie, to follow suit. The one potential issue with the flag button, says Le Meur, is that Twitter prefers spam to be reported by a direct message to its spam account “@spam.” But you need have @spam to follow you first (it seems to be autofollowing) before hitting the flag button on a Twitter client. It’s an extra step the user would have to take to make the button usable, says Le Meur.

Flagging is a good idea and a great first step to battling spam but what Twitter really needs is an Akismet-like plug-in. Akismet, created by WordPress developers, filters link spam from blog comments and trackback pings for blogs. When a new comment, trackback, or pingback comes to a blog site, it is submitted to Akismet, which runs hundreds of tests on the comment and returns a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether it is spam. Akismet says that its plug-in has caught 10.7 billion spam comments from blogs since its launch in 2005.

There are a few Twitter applications that let you flag possible spam, but none are tied to the Twitter desktop clients, like Seesmic Desktop or Tweetie. Topify, a nifty service we reviewed recently, gives you a more comprehensive version of the standard New Follower email offered by Twitter, by providing the user’s Bio, Follower/Following numbers, the user’s most recent tweets and the ability to block and unfollow potential spammers directly from the New Follower email. Twerp Scan scans through your followers and flags Twitter users who could be potential spammers. You can control the filtering options that determine who is a spammer (i.e. number of followers vs. following). But Twitter may have to develop or license its own spam blocking software if the problem becomes more prevalent.

>Information provided by CrunchBase