Thursday, January 15, 2015

How TrueTwit Validation Spam drove me to start @StopTrueTwit

If you're here, you've probably run into this scenario:

1) You joined twitter (I love twitter!)
2) You clicked "follow" next to some profiles of folks who shared some interests with you.
3) Sometimes after you'd follow someone, you'd get a direct message (DM) right back telling you that the person you followed uses the TrueTwit validation service, and requesting that you visit an external website so you can prove that you're "valid".

If you clicked, you were asked to type in a word (captcha) to prove you're not a robot. And then... nothing really happens. Whether or not you type in the captcha you're still following the person. Whether or not you type in the captcha they can still decide you're cool (or not) and follow you back (or not). Bots are certainly capable of typing in captchas these days, and spammers are welcome to join the truetwit network so they can escape the captchas all together. So what's it all about?

If you got a few of these messages, you'd wonder how you could stop them from flooding your message box, and consider joining TrueTwit so it would forever know that you are not a robot. That's when you'd find out that to join TrueTwit, you must also give TrueTwit access to your twitter account, so they can send all your new followers DMs to their website asking them to "validate".

Or, if you don't want to send DMs, you can pay them $20.

Does that sound fishy? It did to me. I love twitter - my main account is @spacefem but I also run @etsytrades for people who like trading handmade items they've posted on Etsy, and I run @wichitaswe for my local Society of Women Engineers to let people know about free technology events for kids. I love meeting new people on twitter, so I'm always clicking "follow" buttons!

I also like to reserve the use of Twitter's direct message system for very important things - so I hate getting messages that tell me to go visit a website that really does nothing.

When I complained to @GoTrueTwit about this, here's the nice message I got back:


I noticed I wasn't the only one... when I searched twitter for "truetwit", nearly every tweet was about how people hated it!

Yes all those tweets are from a time period of just a few hours, because they're really easy to find. No tweets thanking truetwit for a great service - no one appreciates truetwit. They're just annoyed into it.

TrueTwit, in return, says this about their critics:

So because I don't like truetwit, I'm a slutbot? I thought I was a 34-year-old married mom from Kansas who tweets about arts and crafts. I don't think this is a service that any of us should refer to for evaluating people, especially on Twitter, a place where 160 character bios make it really easy to quickly determine who's worth following back and who isn't.

So that's why I launched @StopTrueTwit. I'm sad that TrueTwit has been able to annoy so many twitter users into signing up for their service and sending out all those DM spam messages to new followers. Some people don't even know they're doing it! To me, TrueTwit is running an extortion service: either pay us, become our spambot, or suffer annoying DMs every time you dare click "follow" on a potential new twitter friend.

They're also a spam advertising service - they constantly brag about how much traffic their site gets so they can make more money on ads. In other words, they've gotten thousands of twitter users to send out links a website where only TrueTwit gets ad revenue. Their users give them free advertising, and they make money!

If TrueTwit has lured you in, visit and see if TrueTwit is listed. Click the "revoke access" button next to them to free yourself so they can't use your account.

And please never click a link you get via DM to "validate". Real people on twitter can decide for themselves if you're a real person. When you click those links, you're not showing that you're real, you're showing support for DM spam.

My @StopTrueTwit campaign has several goals:

1) Let people know that TrueTwit is really spam, if you don't like it you are not alone.
2) Serve as a resource for people trying to get truetwit's grabby teeth out of their account, with screenshots, Q&A, and quick tips for how to disable it
3) Get the attention of Twitter and the API team to ask them to shut down the service altogether. I realize this will take a bit of a following. @support has ignored me so far. But some strength may come from numbers.

Yes, I realize there have been anti-truetwit campaigns before that were launched and then abandoned, I will not do that. I am darn persistent. I've been running for 12 years now. I still blog on livejournal - very 2003, I know, but I don't abandon stuff I care about. So trust me, and stay with me. I may not be a social media expert, so if you are you can definitely shoot an email to with tips on how we can stop truetwit.

Let's work together to free twitter from DM spammers, and make it the great place that we all love!