Regular readers will know that I take a keen interest in Twitter spam. It seems the more popular a network gets, the greater the propensity for spam. A shame, but it seems to be the way of the world.
Recently, one of my Tweets which mentioned SoundCloud was retweeted in rapid succession by a variety of accounts.
Take a look at the mugshots below and see if you can spot a pattern.
Ok, let's ignore the obvious - spammers apparently think that blonde women attract more attention. A quick reverse image search shows that "Lela" has ripped their photo off from Instagram's "TribalGearHot" - the others also appear to be pilfered from around the web.
They're all similar -
- Gibberish Twitter handles like "denniroussinos", "coseqigyjiry", "pizaxolozipu". They're automatically generated by the spammers.
- The biographies are similarly procedurally generated - using synonyms and similar terms.
- All promise to boost your SoundCloud plays. Hey! At least they're honest!
- There each mention one of several SoundCloud promotional websites.
- Most have no followers.
- If you look at their extended meta-data, most have been created in 2015 and they only retweet other accounts - they never post anything original.
If you're upset that your SoundCloud isn't getting enough love - you can pay these fine and upstanding women to retweet your content. It seems that they sometimes retweet random content (like mine) for free.
By looking at what they retweet, we can use the Twitter API to see who else has retweeted that content.
In my last investigation, I created network graphs to show how spammers were connected - these spammers are smarter; they don't have friend/follower relationships with any of the other spam accounts.
After a couple of minutes of clicking, I'd already found a dozen accounts - and it seems like there are hundreds more.
Using reverse image search, we can get an idea of just how many times the spammers have recycled the same image. These all seem to stem from the user @SoundCloudHeros - which has been active on Twitter since July 2014.
What Can Be Done?
At a basic level, I can go around clicking Twitter's "Report Spam" button. But even if Twitter treats my reports as though they came from the Spamfinder General, it's only a stopgap measure. I simply don't have the resources to investigate each problematic account.
I've reported my findings directly to SoundCloud. If they can stop the demand for these sorts of services, perhaps the problem will die out naturally?
I do wonder if Twitter has the right incentives to deal with this problem. These accounts, one assumes, show up as active users. Purging each and every spammer may improve the customer experience - but it doesn't produce the easy, tangible numbers that investors like to see.