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TwitBlock Helps Root Out Spammy Followers

Those of you who use Twitter know how quickly one can accumulate unknown "followers," people who sign up to receive updates on their Twitter pages whenever you post a Tweet.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to find that a number of those unknown followers aren't really people at all, but fake profiles designed to draw visitors away from your profile to adult Web sites and other dicey online destinations.

A new service called TwitBlock makes this task of separating spam from fan an interesting and fun - if not always accurate - exercise (hat tip to Mashable).

twiblock3.JPG

TwitBlock uses OAuth, an open authentication protocol that allows users to approve an application to act on their behalf without sharing their password. More information on using OAuth is available here. The criteria by which TwitBlock rates the spamminess of a Twitter follower is explained here.

TwitBlock is still in alpha mode, meaning it still hasn't quite worked out all the kinks. Part of its problem is that the service bases its findings on scans of a meager 3,000 Twitter accounts, examining more than 100,000 users that Twitter users have blocked for one reason or another. There's no doubt that the accuracy of this free service will increase as more people submit scans of their accounts.

Perhaps not surprisingly, TwitBlock has found that the spammy accounts usually have pictures of scantily clad, naked or simply attractive women to lure clicks.

twitblock4.JPG

I agreed with TwitBlock about all of the top five of my followers being suspicious and probably spammy (including one whose picture was decidedly X-rated), and used the handy "block" button next to each to keep them from continuing to follow me. But beyond those obviously suspect followers, I noticed that the service had flagged a number of people I know personally who are most certainly not spammers.

The Security Fix follower who had the highest TwitBlock spamminess factor -- a Twitter user named "GeriJoyner346" - includes a picture of a young woman posing against a wall. According to this site, 96 percent of people Geri has followed (920 Twitter users) aren't following her back. TwitBlock also tells me that Geri's Twitter name looks like it generated by a machine, and not a human.

But perhaps most incriminating, according to TwitBlock, is the fact the Geri shares the same photo as six known, blocked accounts. This is apparently not good for your spamminess rating.

"A very bad sign, this is almost unique to spam accounts," my TwitBlock scan reported.

TwitBlock has posted a list of the Top 20 duplicate profile pics, at this link here (Warning: a few of the pictures there may not be appropriate to view at work).

Check out TwitBlock and let us know in the comments below how it fared against your Twitter fanclub.

Update, Aug. 20, 10:54 a.m. ET: Added NSFW warning.

By Brian Krebs  |  August 19, 2009; 9:14 PM ET
Categories:  Latest Warnings , Safety Tips  | Tags: spam bot or not, twitblock  
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Comments

It's absolutely awesome how easy it is today to get punters to give up their passwords to anything. 'Can I borrow your Maserati? I'll bring it right back!' I don't take Twitter seriously (but think it can be a lot of fun) but I still won't give a password away. Never niemals jamais nikogda.

Posted by: Rixstep | August 20, 2009 3:34 AM | Report abuse

You might want to throw a NSFW after the link for the pictures in Twitblock. Just sayin'...

Posted by: jmglatz | August 20, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Another great & useful blog post! I didn't know about TwitBlock and signed up after reading your column. Lo and behold, a number of new followers I had been puzzled about turned out to be spammers... thanks!

Posted by: johanna3 | August 23, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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