Twitter spam is nothing new. Back in May, “social content cleaning” company Impermium released a study proposing that 40% of all new accounts were spam accounts. I called that figure “preposterous” because of how broadly spam was defined, but in light of a recent study it’s quite possible that both Impermium and I underestimated the pervasiveness of spam accounts on Twitter.
Twitter is big. A little TOO big
Social media monitoring company Semiocast recently released a study examining Twitter accounts by location. It revealed that between January 1, 2012 and July 01, 2012, accounts in the United States increased substantially (from just under 110 million to greater than 140 million). This means that with no clear impetus (that I can determine by sifting through six months of Twitter-related news), Twitter has increased their U.S. accounts by somewhere between 27%-35%. The account numbers are especially unusual for the U.S. because they have a much greater user base than the rest of the world, and their percentage of growth appears comparable only to Indonesia and the United Kingdom.
Mommy, where does Twitter spam come from?
The unusually high growth rate in the U.S. and U.K. might not be a huge issue except that spam exists and it has to come from somewhere. Many tools exist that can create hundreds, even thousands of accounts per day (a random video from YouTube showing one of these tools in embedded below). One of the tactics that these tools use is to use proxy IP addresses and / or masks to try and deceive Twitter about where the accounts are being generated from. Where better to hide than in the biggest crowd?
Twitter search changed less than 10%
AllTwitter reports that search traffic in the same time period increased by less than 10%. What this seems to indicate is that there is a pretty big gap between new account creation and Twitter usage. It seems quite plausible based upon this comparison that 40% of new accounts could be spam. It also opens the possibility that 40% is an underestimation of their prevalence.
For users, the pervasiveness of spam probably isn’t a huge deal. Fake accounts that endure are more likely used to prop up people’s follower numbers than to send out spammy messages. That said, there appears to be a pretty sizable problem with spam accounts in Twitter. Possibly more sizable than previously reported.