Damon Clinkscales blogged about Twitter Spam last month where he advocated proactively cleansing one follower’s list of "follow spammers" to help reduce the load on Twitter, improve Twitter’s reliability, and increase the value of the Twitter community in general.
Still, I think Twitter could take a proactive step reasonably easy that would make it so we don’t have to. I think Twitter could reduce most of the type of Twitter follower spam I got today by applying two simple criteria (And I think Damon also got that same spam today. BTW, nice blog theme Damon! ;-)
I think a strong indication of Twitter follower spam is simply:
- Their following/follower ratio (or their ing/er ratio for short), and
- Their follow rate (i.e. how quickly they follow someone after that last time they followed someone.)
This spammer I got today followed me with 4 different Twitter accounts within a few minutes and each account had around 2000 followings and just over 10 followers making their ing/er ratio about 20-to-1 and I’ll bet their followers were all auto-followed. It’s also clear from the fast & furious tweets that I was not their only mark.
I think it would be reasonable for Twitter to auto-block anyone with a ratio of greater than 15-to-1 ing/er ratio. Twitter could even remove the auto-followers from the calculation; those that follow within around 90 seconds of being followed wouldn’t count as a follower. Doing this Twitter would still give someone the ability to follow 15 people for every one that follows them, and heck they could give them their first 150 people for "free" (i.e. not counting against the limit.) If someone really wants to follow 15,000 people they need to be interesting enough to have at least 1000 people follow them. Shouldn’t be that hard…
Also, Twitter could limit followings per day to, say, 75. That should be enough for anyone, even the most hard-core twitter newbie (150 "free" + 75 more), and it’s not unreasonable to require a newbie to wait a few days to follow lots and lots of people.
If I were in charge of setting these limits, I’d set the ing/er ratio to 5-to-1, give them only 25 "free" and then limit to 25 followings per 24 hour period, but I shot high because I was trying to be "reasonable." Of course, Twitter could allow for special cases by allowing people to request to have those limits manually raised if they provide a good justification for it.
What do you think? Would this work to reduce most Twitter follow spam? I think so.
- 150 is an oft-quoted maximum number of relationships that most people can maintain.