Twitter has revoked the access rights of three services that automatically add or remove followers from users’ accounts.
ManageFlitter, Statusbrew, and Crowdfire have had their access to the Twitter API revoked for allegedly helping users abuse the service, aggressively and repeatedly following and unfollowing large numbers of other accounts. This is a tactic frequently employed by Twitter spammers.
Twitter reserves the right to rate limit, suspend, or terminate developers’ access to its API if it believes they have violated its automation rules.
As TechCrunch describes, the three apps attempt to boost the number of Twitter followers an account has by automatically following a large number, waiting a few days, and then unfollowing any who do no return the favour by following back. Accounts wishing to use such a service typically pay a monthly fee.
Social media consultant Matt Navarra was the first person to bring the suspension to wider attention, after Crowdfire warned users that it was “experiencing some issues.”
We're experiencing some issues with Twitter APIs. We're sorry for the inconvenience and are actively working with Twitter to get this resolved as soon as we can.
— Crowdfire – Social Media Management tool (@Crowdfire) January 30, 2019
Stopping spam and abuse that comes from the use of our APIs plays a big part in keeping Twitter healthy. These apps received previous warnings for violating our API rules and have been suspended. They can reapply for access with a new app that's compliant.
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) January 31, 2019
The CEO of ManageFlitter has posted a thread responding to Twitter, claiming that his company cannot find any record of warnings from Twitter and that his service’s suspension “came out of nowhere.”
We have no record of any warnings sent to us by Twitter relating to this case.
Relevant to this suspension, would you please send us a copy of the previous warnings about API violations?
— Kevin Garber (@Ke_Ga) January 31, 2019
The news of the follow apps’ suspension comes as Twitter revealed that it had deleted thousands of malicious accounts spreading disinformation or attempting to suppress voting. The accounts were believed to have originated in Russia, Iran, and Venezuela, and some of the messages posted by the accounts appear to have been targeting the US midterm elections late last year.
In all, 418 accounts thought to have originated in Russia were removed before the US midterm election day in November. Meanwhile, 764 accounts originating in Venezuela (some of which tweeted over 50,000 times about the US election, while others focused on a “state-backed influence campaign” in Venezuela itself) were disabled, as well as 2,617 accounts seemingly linked to Iran.
More details of the abuse Twitter saw are detailed in the company’s newly-published 2018 U.S. Midterm Retrospective Review.
There’s no point tweeting your misinformation, of course, unless you have a good number of followers. I wonder how these accounts managed to accrue enough followers to make their efforts worthwhile…
In a clearly co-ordinated announcement, Facebook has revealed that it has also “removed multiple Pages, groups and accounts that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram”:
This activity was directed from Iran, in some cases repurposing Iranian state media content, and engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting people across the world, although more heavily in the Middle East and South Asia. These were interconnected and localized operations, which used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.