Tag Archives: twitblock

TwitBlock is over a year old now. One thing we have tried to avoid is being an authority on what is and isn’t spam. We have deliberately avoided blacklisting accounts. The idea has always been to empower the community to collectively decide what is spam by bringing the most likely junk accounts to the surface. We provide some very simple analysis, and indicate how many other people also think an account is spam.

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Last week a another change to Twitter caused me problems with my personal project TwitBlock. For the impatient, see my Google groups post about it. (It didn’t go down very well).

If you’re a Twitter user, you’re probably familiar with this image:


It is/was the default profile image for users that have not uploaded a custom avatar. You may also have noticed last week that Twitter has introduced a new version. Actually they they made seven of them in different colours:
default_profile_0_normal default_profile_1_normal default_profile_2_normal default_profile_3_normal default_profile_4_normal default_profile_5_normal default_profile_6_normal

At least I think they made seven; I can’t find any more, but I can’t find any official document stating how many are out there either.

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I made a major change to TwitBlock the other night. The change was made to protect people who are heavily blocked, but are not “spam”. Of course that depends on your definition. (A topic for another day)

Originally each block on account would yield 10 points. Then I became aware of just how murky this issue is. Barack Obama is blocked by many accounts (Republicans no doubt) plus some people with extreme right wing views were being blocked heavily. Then the complaints started. People whose businesses survive on a huge Twitter following accused me of destroying their reputations, and generating further blocks on their account by showing the number of existing blocks.

So now two things have changed for the time being:
1. Clicks on “not spam” are deducted from blocks;
2. Blocks are diluted by the size of a user’s following. 10 points are added for every 1%. So, if you’re blocked by 40 people, but are followed by 8,000 this will only yield 5 points.

Although this has stemmed the complaints, the scanner is less aggressive and lots of real spam accounts are not showing up with high enough scores. I am struggling to find the balance in the face of all of this and may have to tweak it again.

Constructive criticism of TwitBlock seems to have quite rapidly turned into some quite aggressive complaints including several demands for immediate closure.  This is not intended to be a malicious project, but with a sudden rush of large numbers, I am experiencing a minefield of issues that I did not predict. I am doing my best to fight these fires, but please bear a few things in mind a few things when feeding back to me:

First and foremost, this is alpha software.
I did not expect 7,000 visits a day after just three weeks. (I can thank Mashable for that overhead). I am constantly thinking of ways I can please everyone and still keep the application doing what it needs to do, which is help people remove illegitimate followers.

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– or – “I told you it was in Alpha”

I’ve rolled out an experimental TwitBlock feature designed to reduce “false positives” for legitimate accounts that are being blocked. Whitelist entries are now subtracted from blocks. i.e. accounts marked as “not spam” will have their blocks counteracted on a 1:1 basis. If this feature is abused, it will be removed. It survives on the premise that the spam bots are not capable of whitelisting each other.

Here’s the full story:
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The list of Twitter accounts below all have something in common – They all have an identical profile image, which looks like this:

Shelley Ryan

At the time of writing none of these accounts have been suspended. Whether they are breaking any laws or not I don’t know, but it is clearly a syndicate whichever way you look at it. The profiles all point to a Korean-registered “Cash generator” website, which [I would hazard a guess] is a con.

TwitBlock unearthed this statistic from a list of only 18,000 100,000 blocked accounts provided by under 400 3,000 TwitBlock users . When you consider the size and growth of Twitter, you can well imagine that there are far more than 120 288 profiles in this syndicate. You also have to wonder how much of Twitter’s growth figures can be attributed to this junk.

[ UPDATE:  18 Aug ]
Many of these accounts have been suspended, but TwitBlock is discovering new ones each day – currently 248 accounts known with this image.

[ UPDATE 19 Aug ]
I’ve produced a report of the top 20 most duplicated profile pics identified by TwitBlock

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