Twitter suspends accounts that sell automated follow/unfollow services

Twitter is pulling the plug.
Image: Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter is flexing its muscles, and some businesses are pissed.

Twitter has suspended three prominent social media companies that enable clients to rapidly follow and unfollow accounts using the Twitter API. This is a popular strategy for increasing followers, but a practice that’s largely seen as spammy.

Twitter says that the companies’ actions were a violation of Twitter’s terms, and it is enforcing the rules in its effort to improve “conversational health” on the platform, and as part of its larger effort to crack down on spam. But representatives from the companies are pissed, saying that they received no warning, and claiming that they have complied with Twitter’s communications and requests in the past.

The incident could be a touch point for Twitter disrupting a social media economy of bots and inflated follower counts that it has allowed to flourish through lax enforcement in the past.

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Following and unfollowing users is a well-known social media tactic for gaining followers. The idea is that following someone might prompt them to follow you back, and then unfollowing them gives you a better ratio of followers to following. Automating this process, by using Twitter’s API, allows companies to put this process on steroids, which results in non-genuine follower attempts and potential notification fatigue. However, as the companies point out, Twitter has approved their applications for using the API in the past.

But now, Twitter is making a change. As confirmed by Twitter, it suspended Managefilter, Crowdfire, and StatusBrew, for violating its terms.

The controversy has played out in a Twitter feed started by social media consultant Matt Navarra, who spotted and confirmed Twitter’s policy change. Navarra first wrote that Twitter had revoked the API access that allowed the companies to engage in their rapid follow/unfollow tactics. He pointed out that if the change is permanent, it could hit their business hard.

Twitter ended up confirming Navarra’s observation in the thread, citing its past efforts to enforce rules of engagement and improve the health of conversations on the platform.

Here’s the portion of Twitter’s rules that the companies reportedly violated, engaging in “aggressive following and follower churn.”

Twitter’s rules prohibit automated follow/unfollow. Whether they enforce those rules has been a trickier question.

Image: screenshot: Twitter

Twitter began an effort to crack down on spam, bots, and fake followers in earnest in 2018. Celebrities and brands lost millions of followers last summer in what was known as the Twitter “purge.” It also instituted new rules around harassing and discriminating behavior, and released a four-point plan for fighting disingenuous behavior, which included removing accounts who were abusing the API. 

However, Twitter has been criticized for inconsistently applying many of its rules. This has allowed hate speech and spam bots alike to flourish on the platform. Now that Twitter could actually be enforcing its rules more diligently, that could constitute a huge disruption to companies who have built their businesses around what some might call shady, and others might call efficient, practices.

The CEO of Crowdfire rebutted Twitter’s claims that it had warned the company about violating its practices. He tweeted that the suspension was abrupt and inconsistent with their past communications.

Twitter has an “Official Partners” program that vets companies who use Twitter’s API. The companies associated with that program were reportedly not affected. Beyond that, it’s not clear why some social media companies who engage in follow/unfollow tactics were spared — and some were given the axe.

Cracking down on abusing the API is a positive step in Twitter’s efforts to make the platform more genuine; the more real people and real engagement you have, the less opportunity there is for abuse. However, the controversy shows the fumbles and consequences of Twitter’s past enforcement strategies. These companies should never have built their businesses on shady practices, but Twitter also shouldn’t have allowed it to ever occur in the first place. Now, once again, it’s users who are paying for Twitter’s mistakes. Even if it is ultimately for the greater social media good.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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