Another dot in the blogosphere?

The importance of blocking on Twitter

Posted on: July 21, 2015

Blocking people and bots on Twitter is an underrated feature. I bet most people do not use it because they think that blocking is anti-social or it will reduce their follower count.

I counter those notions. Blocking is social responsibility.

Bot or semi-bot accounts are getting cleverer.

Some engage in seemingly harmless practices like adding you to “myfollowers” lists or favouriting your tweets. I block accounts that do these because they ultimately affect my reputation as measured by Twitter data.

Bots or semi-bots used to be “eggs” (the default profile picture) and their postings were quite obvious. Now they have human avatars, believable profiles, and proper names as handles. Even their tweets look less spammy.

But such bot or semi-bot accounts are easy enough to identify if you do a bit of investigative work over time.

Recently I was followed by several such accounts (see image). It might be hard to tell at first glance why I blocked them. When I examined their tweets, I noticed patterns.

One clear pattern was a similar number of tweets which started at roughly the same time. Another was the content of tweets. While there was a range of topics, they all were about similar things.

Not blocking a few of these accounts led to more of such accounts following me. After I started blocking them, the flow of such spambots slowed to a trickle.

Such bots or semi-bots seem to have an ant-like algorithm. If you do not kill their scouts, they create a trail to you and swarm.

Ant Dinner Is Served! by giovzaid85, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  giovzaid85 

People and bots that distribute spam do no good. They artificially inflate Twitter counts, reduce the reputation of Twitter (and by association yours as well), and they increase the noise to signal ratio.

It is difficult to control email spam because we have little control as single users. For example, we need the might of Google to stem spam email near its source. However, we have a social responsibility to block and report spambots or other offensive accounts in Twitter. That human element is still critical.

Social media is not just social because you can disseminate to a much wider audience, it is also about having more creative and critical dialogues. Spammers and spambots in Twitter do the former but not the latter. They also decrease the quality of content and conversations. It is not enough to ignore them. We should not be afraid to block them.

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