A few weeks back Facebook and Twitter were humiliated by a NYTimes piece that detailed the back alley practices of the social media industry, and now the latter is finally doing something about the problem.
On Wednesday Twitter announced new terms of service that effectively ban many of the more blatant sockpuppet activities common both to companies that sell likes and tweets and the 50,000 strong bot army that had been linked to Russian propaganda efforts.
From Twitter's blog post:
Do not (and do not allow your users to) simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content to multiple accounts. For example, your service should not permit a user to select several accounts they control from which to publish a given Tweet.
- This applies regardless of whether the Tweets are published to Twitter at the same time, or are scheduled/queued for future publication.
- As an alternative to posting identical content, you can Retweet content from one account from the other accounts you wish to share that post from. This should only be done from a small number of distinct accounts that you directly control. Please note that bulk, aggressive, or very high-volume automated Retweeting is not permitted under the Automation Rules, and may be subject to enforcement actions.
Do not (and do not allow your users to) simultaneously perform actions such as Likes, Retweets, or follows from multiple accounts. For example, your service should not permit a user to select several accounts they control to follow a specified account.
- For additional information on aggressive or inorganic following behavior, please refer to this developer forum post.
- For additional information on the appropriate use of automation for replies and mentions, please refer to this developer forum post.
The use of any form of automation (including scheduling) to post identical or substantially similar content, or to perform actions such as Likes or Retweets, across many accounts that have authorized your app (whether or not you created or directly control those accounts) is not permitted. For example, applications that coordinate activity across multiple accounts to simultaneously post Tweets with a specific hashtag (e.g. in an attempt to cause that topic to trend) are prohibited.
While these rules were written for developers, these are activities that Twitter doesn't want. Users should be reading the rules carefully because they run the risk of breaking a rule and getting their account shut down.
So what does this mean for authors and the average user?
That really depends on how you use Twitter. If you just have one or two accounts, and you only use them one at a time through one of the approved Twitter clients, then you can probably just ignore all these rules because they will not impact you.
But power users like me (people that use Buffer, Hootsuite, or a similar service) are going to have to start being extra careful not to run afoul of Twitter's rules.
We'll need to avoid scheduling tweets to go out across multiple Twitter accounts. And simultaneously posting a Tweet across multiple Twitter accounts is out completely.
And while this is going to make my life more difficult, I can't say it is a bad thing. This is going to reduce the bot spam considerably, leaving more space for real people to carry on conversations.
image by clasesdeperiodismo