Twitter’s video streaming app, Periscope, is cracking down on spam and, specifically, fake engagements. The company says it’s updating its policies around how it enforces its anti-spam rules, and is making improvements in terms of how those rules are enforced. This means users will see increased enforcement actions, Periscope notes — and these may even take place on “high-profile” accounts.
The app has struggled for some time to get a handle on spam and other bad behavior.
For example, in 2016 the live-streaming app rolled out real-time comment moderation — a much-needed change given the real-time nature of the live video and associated comments. Last year, it updated this system so broadcasters could assign their own chat moderators instead of relying on the crowd to handle the reporting and banning.
While these changes may have helped to address issues around trolling and abuse, spam is another matter — and particularly the inauthentic behavior around “fake engagements.”
This isn’t only a Periscope problem. On any platform where engagements — like hearts, favorites, follows and comments — are the currency of success, entire ecosystems pop up designed to help people cheat their way to the top.
With the updated spam policy, the company says it will now prohibit fake engagements — including any artificial hearts, chat, followers and views. It classifies these actions as “spam,” because they’re “deceptive” forms of activity.
Any selling or promoting of fake engagement will be prohibited, too.
In addition, the company says it will focus on proactive enforcement to help improve chat quality and will soon launch account-level spam-reporting options so others can report spammy users.
Fake engagement is not a new issue for the app.
For years there have been problems with fake followers and fake hearts as an attempt to manipulate the system. There are YouTube videos that detail how this works, tutorials on how to make these purchases, bots, and, of course, offers filed under “social media marketing” on sites like Fiverr — a marketplace where much of the fake internet is manufactured.
While Periscope may have turned a blind eye to the spam and fakery for some time, its decision to finally crack down on fake engagement arrives only a few months after Instagram did the same. In November, Instagram began fighting back against automated apps people used to leave spammy comments and to follow and unfollow users in hopes of growing their audience.
Social media platforms, as a whole, have actively ignored these sorts of attempts to manipulate their systems for most of their existence. After all, fake engagements like hearts and follows and comments make it look like their platforms are more active than they actually are. And if these fakery tools helped birth crowds of “influencers” who then, in turn, attracted more users to the platform, that could be even seen as a perk.
But fake accounts and activity aren’t always about people wanting a shortcut to online fame — inauthentic accounts are also the source for disinformation campaigns and attempts by foreign governments to hack our democracy. That’s shifted the scale in the other direction, and has forced social media platforms to finally stop ignoring the problem of inauthentic accounts and activity.
Periscope, however, told users it’s all about listening to their feedback.
“At Periscope, we value our community’s feedback to make our service better. Periscope is a place for instant engagement and we’ve heard your concerns about spammy accounts and chats,” the company said. “Whether you’re broadcasting or catching up with your favorite broadcaster, we are always looking for ways to make Periscope feel safer and more authentic for our community.”