Twitter has had a major spam problem ever since it started to gain popularity. Without any tangible restrictions on account creation, spambots run rampant by automatically responding to key terms and following tens of thousands of users in order to boost their own follower counts. The Wall Street Journal spoke with Jim Vidmar, a Twitter bot “dealer” who buys fake Twitter accounts from suppliers and then sells them to users who wants to improve their standings on the popular social network. According to their findings, the problem is not going away any time soon.
In all, the WSJ says that Vidmar “manages 10,000 robots for roughly 50 clients” who pay him “to make them appear more popular and influential.” His bots are hardly a fraction of the millions that plague the service and threaten to damage the company’s reputation now that Twitter has gone public. Despite all of this, Vidmar is still making a living selling and managing bots on Twitter, whereas he was immediately suspended from Facebook and threatened with legal action when he attempted the same scheme.
Twitter has tried to take strides in deleting more bots, but Vidmar says that “the underground market quickly adapted.” When a group of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and George Mason University teamed up with Twitter’s security division, they were able to develop a system that would block 95% of spambots, as opposed to the 8% that Twitter’s previous method managed to catch.
Until Twitter can enforce its own terms and conditions, spambots will continue to flood the timeline.