Twitter Spammers: What's Not to Hate?

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If you're anything like me, you're heartily sick of Twitter spammers. It's Friday, so might I crave your indulgence for a little experiment here in The Long View? (I promise: there's nothing here about the Apple iPhone 4.)

Twitter spammers. Don'cha just hate 'em? The microblogging service seems to be plagued with thousands of bots, mindlessly tweeting gibberish. Any search for a popular term -- such as, ohhh I don't know, Apple iPhone 4 -- seems to throw up a huge, steaming pile of automated tweets from an army of fake Twitter users.

But what's really going on here? After having studied this phenomenon for a while now, I have a fair idea about at least one modus operandi used by these Twitter spammers.

The bot software they use searches Google News for new posts for a particular set of keywords. They usually do this with an RSS feed, then misusing a service like Twitterfeed to tweet the headlines of the posts, often from several of their fake users at once.

The idea is to attract followers, either to fool them into clicking on the link in the fake user's profile, or on a link that they later send to their victims using Twitter a direct-message. The links might be malware come-ons or they might contain affiliate marketing tracking codes.

A variant of this scam has the spammers scraping Google News feeds and automatically posting them a blog, wrapping the text in advertising and force-fed affiliate cookies. Then their twitter bots auto-tweet links to the spammy blog post.

The fake Twitter identities often use pictures of, uhh, attractive women. Classy.

Suffice to say that each time I write a post for IT Blogwatch or The Long View, I see a flurry of robot spam tweets containing the post's title -- especially if the title is a 'valuable' search term.

Reporting rogue users to @spam rarely seems to have any effect; neither does clicking the Report for spam links. This is despite these tactics being clearly contrary to Twitter's Spam and Abuse Rules.

Perhaps the Twitter-powers-that-be don't mind the extra traffic volume? Perhaps they have bigger fish to fry? It's hard to say, but if anyone's from Twitter's reading my fail-wail, I'm all ears.

Are you fed up with Twitter spammers? Or just fed up with Twitter? Leave a comment below...

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

This story, "Twitter Spammers: What's Not to Hate?" was originally published by Computerworld.

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