umm.. do I know you?
July 27, 2010 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I occasionally pick up Twitter followers that appear to be bogus accounts (e.g. today's follower has stats of 1 tweet, following 640 people, 0 followers). What's up with these accounts? What's the motivation behind them? What are people trying to accomplish?
posted by swngnmonk to Technology (12 answers total)
Welcome to the new linkspam.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:02 AM on July 27, 2010

Typically, that 1 tweet contains a link to some spam site they want you to go to. The idea is that you'll see the name (usually a female name) or picture (ditto) and say "wait, do I know this person?" or your ego will be flattered that you've gained a follower, and click the link out of curiosity.

Often these people disappear as followers almost immediately. I'm not sure whether that's because they quickly unfollow as soon as they follow or because Twitter disables their accounts.
posted by Partial Law at 7:05 AM on July 27, 2010

Best answer: They are spam. They post a few innocuous messages and then they start posting things like: "OMG, check out this awesome new diet pill!!!"

They rely on the fact that some people on Twitter automatically follow anyone who follows them. So you end up following a spammer.

There is a sort of interesting metaphysical issue when one of these people posts hundreds of "legitimate" tweets in order to camouflage the spam-iness of their actual purpose -- what the the precise ratio of filler posts to spam posts that makes someone an actual spammer? Especially when the filler posts are not that much worse than most of the stuff on Twitter in the first place.
posted by Mid at 7:07 AM on July 27, 2010

Some people automatically follow back everyone that follows them. Since you can only direct message those who follow you, this can give the spammer an opportunity to direct message a person with some kind of phishing attempt.
posted by theraflu at 7:11 AM on July 27, 2010

Block them and report them for spam. They'll be gone within hours usually.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:17 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I figured it was all spamming, but it seems like a massively wasteful (save the electrons!) way to go about it.

I guess I'm forgetting the fact that the world will always create a bigger idiot.
posted by swngnmonk at 7:32 AM on July 27, 2010

Data point: I follow two people but I don't tweet and I have no followers.

The two people I follow are Chad Ochocinco and Glenn Greenwald. That's all I've got to say about that.
posted by vincele at 7:36 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

What's the motivation behind them?

Oops to answer your question, I just like their tweets.
posted by vincele at 7:39 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Twitter is a great place to lurk if you want to follow celebrities, politicos, bloggers, commenters from blogs I like, friends, relatives, local newspapers, and other random accounts. You don't have to actually tweet for the site to be useful. For the first year that I had a Twitter account, I tweeted less than 30 times, but I logged in every day to see what other people were talking about.

I'm currently following 252 people, and have 40 followers of my own (more than 30 of which are spammers). I have tweeted more this year, but I don't regularly tweet.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:40 AM on July 27, 2010

I have a Twitter account I use to follow interesting posters, despite never posting myself. That seems like a large number of people to follow as a pure reader, however.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:42 AM on July 27, 2010

I generally view Twitter posts that come from an API client, as opposed to generating from the website or smartphone apps, as being from spammers. If I see multiple posts in one day that are nothing but links, I give it about 24 hours to review their output, then decide to delete.
posted by stannate at 11:35 AM on July 27, 2010

Especially when the filler posts are not that much worse than most of the stuff on Twitter in the first place.

And especially when the whole point of Twitter is viral marketing. I use twitter for "networking", which basically means that the vast majority of people I follow (largely in hopes that they follow me in return) are people I think would be interested in my writing work. At least a third of my posts are "hey! I wrote something! you should check it out!" or otherwise self-plugs. Especially if I haven't been too active lately, as I have my blogs set up to auto-tweet themselves.

This isn't really all that different from the spam feeds - the only main difference is that I'm theoretically part of a community of people who are all trying to do the same thing, and everything is much more carefully positioned than "send this random thing to everyone I possibly can".
posted by Sara C. at 12:18 PM on July 27, 2010

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