Twitter Wages War On Spam

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Twitter engineers have brought down the level of spam on the site to just one percent, while the GSMA is testing its own reporting service against mobile spam

Twitter has succeeded in dramatically reducing the amount of spam that appears on the micro-blogging site over the last six months, according to the company’s blog.

While more than one in ten tweets were reported as spam in August 2009, latest figures show that the proportion has been reduced to just one percent. Twitter claims that the rapid progress is largely thanks to a group of security experts and software engineers, which make up its ‘Trust and Safety team’.

“While the battle will never be over, we’re doing well on the front lines,” the company stated. “With help from engineers on our Research team, we’ve moved the percentage of spam flowing through the Twitter network way down – and counting.”

Spam comes in many forms

“At Twitter, we see spamming as a variety of different behaviors that range from insidious to annoying. Posting harmful links to phishing or malware sites, repeatedly posting duplicate tweets, and aggressively following and un-following accounts to attract attention are just a few examples of spam on Twitter,” it added. “Like it or not, as the system becomes more popular, more and more spammers will try to do their thing. We’re constantly battling against spam to improve the Twitter experience and we’re happy to report that it’s working.”

In August last year, a survey by media analytics firm Pear Research found that, in a sample of 2,000 tweets, only 3.75 percent were classified as spam. However, 8.7 percent made it into the “Self-Promotion” category, while a whopping 40.55 percent were defined as “Pointless Babble”. Despite this, the micro-blogging site continues to grow in popularity, with figures recorded in February showing that users are creating more than 50 million tweets per day.

Twitter encourages anyone who is a victim of spam to click the “report for spam” link on any suspicious profile page, or send a tweet to @spam.

GSMA spam reporting service

Meanwhile the war on spam continues to be fought on other fronts. The GSMA announced yesterday that it is piloting a spam reporting service as part of its attempt to address mobile messaging misuse.

The service allows users to report misuse by forwarding any spam messages to the number 7726 – which spells “SPAM” on most mobile phones. The messages are picked up by a responsive feedback system, which acknowledges the reports and informs their service providers. This can result in investigations, warnings and blocking of senders who have been repeatedly reported by end users as sending unsolicited or fraudulent messages.

“The issue of mobile messaging misuse is a global, inter-operator problem and the GSMA Spam Reporting Service, along with other spam mitigation solutions such as spam filtering, is an important component of a comprehensive spam mitigation strategy for the industry,” said Alex Sinclair, chief strategy and technology officer at GSMA.

“We have learnt from the online experience where spam is prolific and this service will enable mobile operators, mobile users and legitimate mobile marketers to take action as we work together to help users and their service providers to tackle mobile spam,” he added.

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