C’mon Twitter! Quit Leaving Direct Messages Vulnerable To Spam

Spam is probably Twitter’s biggest problem. 

But as it is now, instead of making it easy to identify the more spammy type of Twitter accounts, Twitter is actually hiding that information from you!

Hey, Twitter: Quit Protecting Spammers!

Wouldn’t you want to know before following someone if they spammed everyone that follows them with an advertising message?

But currently, if someone sends a DM spam to everyone that follows them, you have no way of knowing! And so you follow someone who seems nice…and you get spammed. Again.

If you follow someone, they can direct message (DM) you. If Twitter made the additional requirement that you must also have sent them a tweet at least once before they can DM you, DM spam would be cut way, way back.

This would mean spammers would be forced to send their spams by tweet instead of DM, and tweets can be seen publicly. So this is not only a spam prevention method, it’s a spam identification method. Spammers couldn’t hide their spam messages any more!

Alternatively, Twitter could simply add a “let them DM me” feature instead of making it automatic. But this would be confusing, and take a lot of effort if you had to do it for each person.

Dealing Five Large Setbacks To Twitter Spammers

This one simple change would have HUGE effects:

  1. It would be much harder to hijack accounts. Right now, 99% of hijackings start as DMs that send you to a page that tries to trick you into entering your password (usually by looking like a Twitter login page). When someone you follow is hijacked, their accounts starts sending out these phishing DMs, trying to hijack accounts. In this scenario,  if they can’t DM you, they can’t hijack your account.
  2. Spammers would be stopped cold from the tactic of following people, to get follow backs in order to send DM spam.
  3. Spammers would get far fewer followers, because their spam messages would be seen publicly, instead of hidden as DMs. They could no longer pretend to be “just folks” publicly while sending tons of spam to everyone that follows them.
    This would send a big signal to Twitter’s spam-identification algorithm—spammers get fewer followers and are more visible due to needing to spam more publicly—so Twitter could suspend them faster.
  4. One of spammers biggest sources of income would be hit hard, since the auto-follow, auto-DM software would no longer work. Currently, spammers create other spammers by selling this software, telling you to use it to auto-follow people, and then spamming the people that follow you back by DM.
  5. Block automated spam DMs. Spammers create tons of Twitter accounts automatically, have them tweet automatically, and send their spam automatically by DM. This means one person can create thousands of spam accounts, but none of it works if they can’t send spam! While stopping auto-DMs doesn’t stop spam, for all the reasons listed above it makes spamming much, much harder to automate and profit from.

To the ignorant and greedy, Twitter has long looked like a spam paradise, because they can hide the spam they send so no one knows they are a spammer. Twitter needs to put a stop to this.

Make DMs Useful Again

Many long-time Twitter users publicly state that they don’t read their DMs, because they are so inundated with spam. @ChrisBrogan even said he would quit Twitter if Twitter didn’t let him unfollow everyone so he could get rid of all the DM spam.

And this wouldn’t change the way DMs are already useful: you connect with someone you follow via tweets, then you switch to DMs to continue your conversation. This would still work automatically, since you follow them and have sent them a tweet.

Spam is killing Twitter, DMs are badly broken, and Twitter needs to to act soon to fix things.

Make Twitter Twice As Useful

By putting spammers on the run by making DMs protected and useful again, Twitter could them use DMs to open up collaboration by allowing them to be longer than 140 characters.  This isn’t as radical as it sounds. Tweets would still be limited to 140 characters.

Why Even Twitter Won’t Use Twitter

If you make a support request to Twitter, they reply via email. Twitter is a communication system that not even Twitter wants to use when they have to collaborate with users! There’s a word for that: broken.

For the rest of use, to collaborate usually means exchanging private emails, and ends up splitting the collaboration: some of the information is on Twitter, some of it is in emails. By letting DMs run a little longer, people could keep their whole conversation on Twitter, and avoid the awkward security issue of whether to give out your email to someone.

A Wide Variety of Benefits

I regularly get 3-5 DMs in a row from people trying simply to explain a question they have. And the people that don’t often don’t include enough information for me to help them, and I have to ask for more information.

This would also make it easier to “attach” files. Now, you have to link to whatever files you want share, but the links use up the room needed for communication. By letting DMs be a little longer, you could include several links and still have room.

Test show that people rarely need more than 500 characters for emails (that is, if you limit them to 500, as the ShortMail service does, most people still get things done in one email). That is about the length of three-and-a-half tweets, and in my experience, would eliminate 99% of the multiple DMs we receive as @TweetSmarter when helping people.

It would also allow you to really share key content, instead of forcing people off to a link to search through an article. You could excerpt key points from a blog post, for example, without forcing people to go to a link and dig through it to find the data you want to share with them.

You could compare things in a single DM, such as a brief summary of three apps with a link to each. You could provide tech support, by having enough room to write down detailed instructions.

Twitter could charge more for this service if they wanted, or could simply roll it out initially to their advertising partners as an additional benefit.

Summary

What do you think?

Is it time for Twitter to stop letting spammers hide their spam and send it to anyone that follows them? Would Twitter be more useful if your DM inbox had less spam, and was easier to use for collaboration? Leave a comment and let us know!

4 thoughts on “C’mon Twitter! Quit Leaving Direct Messages Vulnerable To Spam

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