micro-spam – Stay N Alive

Twitter, The New Micro-Spammer and the Need to Fix CAN-SPAM

Marketers seem to never learn.  Time and time again they have tried to sacrifice loyal relationships with customers in order to take the easy road in hopes to get the small percentage out of millions that might convert into one-time sales.  Affiliate marketing is ripe with these people hoping to “get rich quick”, without regard to how it is done.  I some times wonder if these people would sacrifice their own souls in order to gain a quick buck.  It would certainly seem so as we have been inundated with junk mail and e-mail spam, viruses, worms, porn, and other tools intended to spread what they’re selling to mass audiences in as fast a manner as possible.

Technology has sought hard to stop such problems.  We have anti-virus solutions that stop the malware, but evidently it’s not good enough, because viruses and worms and malware still spread.  Google’s Gmail has excellent spam filtering software for e-mail, as do other services such as Yahoo Mail and Hotmail.  Yet, I still get spam e-mail.  There are even services which try to stop the amount of junk mail you receive, yet even that isn’t fool proof.  It seems no matter how much technology we throw at it, the spammers will always find a way to circumvent the process.

Government is doing all they can do as well.  Here in the United States, CAN SPAM act makes it easy for government to prosecute against spammers.  The act was meant to thwart the problem in the early 00’s where e-mail spam was running rampant.  The marketers all complained, claiming it would reduce the amount of money they could make, worries of economic crisis ensued.  But after the act went into place, marketers began to realize they were actually seeing more money than before because they were actually focusing on people that were interested in their product, rather than people that weren’t.  I admit a lot of my spam went down at that time.

Enter 2010.  Twitter is almost a standard.  Facebook is almost a standard.  We are seeing the era of micro-messaging take form, and it doesn’t seem this era is going away any time soon.  As with any new communications technology, so come the spammers that come along with it.  As I can attest from my own company, the spammers are now out of control on Facebook and Twitter and almost any other service that enables micro-messaging, and they’re fighting their best to stay on top of it all.  I admit they’re probably doing all they can, too.

On SocialToo in just the last month, we have already automatically marked near 3,500 DM messages as spam out of a total of 3,500 users that utilize the service. Since we implemented the service just a few months ago we’ve marked near 8,500 DM messages as spam. And that’s just DMs on Twitter! Considering there are in the 10s of millions on the service and DMs aren’t the only means of spam, you can see the problem Twitter and Facebook are facing.

It was this reason I added these spam filtering services on top of SocialToo.  I too want to do what I can to help kill these problems.  I’ve seen it all – even people abusing my own service to increase their numbers and in return spam those followers with things their followers never intended to receive.  It was this reason we complied with Twitter’s request to remove automatic unfollow of those who unfollow you recently, and frankly I agree with Twitter on the move – they’re doing the best they can to thwart spammers, and I want to support them in that process.  Look at this video I found on Youtube recently – in it, a man is demoing software that uses a combination of your desktop and outsourced workers in India (likely through services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk) to quickly create accounts, send a few tweets each to increase, gain, and grow followers, and spam those followers with affiliate links. It’s appalling the way he says this is a “secret” only a “select few” marketers know about – the fact is I already knew about it – it’s no secret:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlHsrSBUVr4&hl=en_US&fs=1&hd=1]

Source: http://www.boblallyblog.net/?p=776 (http://twitter.com/boblally and http://twitter.com/successtoolme)

This guy’s software is just one of many, and I argue it does this the hard way.  Now we have the ability for applications to sit on top of the browser and completely control  the context which a user views the web.  Applications like GreaseMonkey, extensions and plugins, and even Kynetx, while they can be used for good, could all be used in this way with just simple HTML and Javascript to create accounts and spam with them.  There’s not much Twitter or Facebook or even the makers of GreaseMonkey, Firefox, Chrome, IE, or Kynetx can do about them (although Kynetx at least has a controlled user directory through which they can at monitor these things).  There are already tools like Hummingbird out there that do this for relatively cheap, and there will be more.

It’s time Government step in and put an end to this.  CAN-SPAM was written for long-form communications, but it needs to be modified to allow for the short-form. It specifically mentions e-mail and cell phone communications, not micro-messaging services.  Recipients should still have the opportunity to opt-out of the messages they receive. Perhaps the enablers of such communication such as Facebook and Twitter need to provide a means for message senders to provide an opt-out location that attaches to their messages.  That’s just one idea – I’m sure there are many other ways of doing this.

CAN-SPAM needs a provision which specifically targets the micro-messaging space.  It needs communication which specifically says what marketers can do on these services, and how people can opt out.  As I know very well, this will not stop all messages, but it will cut off a large majority of messages, which I know are being used by legit Lawyers and Doctors and business owners everywhere in the US to cost Twitter thousands of dollars and waste the time of countless people.

We need to do all we can to stop this nonsense. I want to see these micro-messaging spammers prosecuted.  It won’t happen unless the US Government modifies CAN-SPAM.  How can we do this effectively in the micro-messaging space?