Twitter suspends 500,000 spam accounts as Musk puts on hold $44b deal

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Parag Agrawal

By our staff correspondent

Micro-blogging platform, Twitter, has informed that it has suspended over half a million accounts suspected to be spam every day.

In addition to this, Twitter said millions of accounts that are unable to pass human verification are locked each week.

Twitter Chief Executive Officer, Parag Agrawal, who made this public recently, explained the efforts of the company at reducing spam accounts. Agrawal said the company also faces the challenge of many accounts that look fake because they have no pictures, but are later verified to have real humans behind them.

The Twitter CEO also admitted that fighting spam is incredibly dynamic. “The adversaries, their goals, and tactics evolve constantly – often in response to our work! You can’t build a set of rules to detect spam today, and hope they will still work tomorrow.”

Amid the deal to sell the company to Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, Twitter had admitted that five per cent of accounts on the platform were spam.

Musk last week announced that the deal had been put on hold temporarily until the five per cent claim was investigated. Narrating how the company had been tackling the challenge of spam via a Twitter thread, Agrawal said:

“First, let me state the obvious, spam harms the experience for real people on Twitter and therefore can harm our business. As such, we are strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can, every single day. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just wrong. Next, spam isn’t just ‘binary’ (human/not human). The most advanced spam campaigns use combinations of coordinated humans + automation. They also compromise real accounts, and then use them to advance their campaign. So – they are sophisticated and hard to catch. We suspend over half a million spam accounts every day, usually before any of you even see them on Twitter. We also lock millions of accounts each week that we suspect may be spam – if they can’t pass human verification challenges (captchas, phone verification, among others). The hard challenge is that many accounts which look fake superficially – are actually real people. And some of the spam accounts which are actually the most dangerous – and cause the most harm to our users – can look totally legitimate on the surface,” he added.

He said the Twitter team updates its systems and rules constantly to remove as much spam as possible, without inadvertently suspending real people or adding unnecessary friction for real people when they use Twitter “Now, we know we aren’t perfect at catching spam. And so this is why, after all the spam removal I talked about above, we know some still slips through. We measure this internally. And every quarter, we have estimated that five per cent of reported mDAU for the quarter are spam accounts. “Our estimate is based on multiple human reviews (in replicate) of thousands of accounts that are sampled at random, consistently over time, from accounts we count as mDAUs. We do this every quarter, and we have been doing this for many years,” he explained.

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