Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Does Anyone Here Understand the Rules of Twitter?

My Twitter account was just suspended.  Fortunately it's not a big hoo-ha to get it back . . . you just have to tick some boxes saying you'll be a good girl (or boy) in future.  But it's the reason I was suspended that puzzles me.

The page . . . and yes, it is a 'one size fits all' page . . . said I had been suspended because I'd been following aggressively and there had been a large number of reports of my spamming.

Now first of all, I'd like to say I abhore spam.  However, it seems that Twitter's definition of spam is very different from what most of us might understand by that term.  According to Twitter, you are spamming:
  • If you have followed a large amount of users in a short amount of time;
  • If you have followed and unfollowed people in a short time period, particularly by automated means (aggressive follower churn);
  • If you repeatedly follow and unfollow people, whether to build followers or to garner more attention for your profile;
all of which sounds, to me, identical to their definition of 'aggressive following'.  But spamming covers other actions as well - in fact, there's a long list - and one of these is:
  • If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates;
which is also troubling because I do post links in almost all my posts - they're to articles and news items that I think may be interesting or helpful and which, I believe, my followers are following me in order to see.  I hope that what Twitter means is just links without some text saying what it is . . . but it's not clear.

As far as the 'aggressive following is concerned',  my following habits have remained exactly the same for at least the past six or eight months and I've never been suspended before.  I always follow roughly the same number of people each time . . . and only every other day, never ever two days running.  So why now?

And what also puzzles me is who these large number of people who reported me are.  Because a very large proportion of those who I follow, follow me back - usually around 70 to 80 per cent.  And, although I guess quite a number will automatically follow back anyone who follows them, I'd like to think that a lot of those who follow me do so because I post links to interesting articles and news items.

So, yes, I'm quite offended to have had my account suspended for aggressive following and spamming.  Of course, one of the problems is that no one outside Twitter actually knows what aggressive following consists of.  The guidelines say  "if you don’t follow or un-follow hundreds of users in a single day, and you aren’t using automated methods of following users, you should be fine."  (Notice it says 'should' . . . not 'will be'.)  But how many hundreds is 'hundreds'?

One Twitter expert I know used to teach that you could follow up to three hundred a day for three days in a row.  And some bigwig at Twitter had assured him personally that it was OK to do this.  But I know someone who was suspended for following 200 two days in a row and then, once she was reinstated, two days later for following ten!

I find it difficult to understand what Twitter hopes to gain by being so vague.  It would, after all, be quite easy to say "You may not follow more than 200 people once every two days" or something of the sort.  Then we'd all know where we stood.  But, sadly, this seems to be the way things go online these days (if you've read the posts I wrote in January about Google adwords, you'll know what I'm referring to).  And I wonder whether ultimately it's just about power . . . knowing that they have a hold over so many people who are anxiously pussy-footing around, trying not to break rules that haven't been fully explained.  Sadly, we'll never know.


  1. Great article Ruth and what I really think what this points out is that we often forget that we are using other peoples' systems.

    Depending on how reliant you are to certain websites or social media there's much to be said for trying to 'own' your own platforms. Then no one can mess with you.

    Great post! :)

  2. Thanks for your comment, Benny. I agree with what you say.