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back to article Twee...THUD: Boffins build 'The Classifier' to seek out, kill millions of Twitter fakes

Comp sci boffins spent a year buying up more than 100,000 fake Twitter accounts in a bid to help the teeny-tiny text transmitter beef up its spam defences. They also used their research to build a retroactive classifier that sniffed out the fakers so the Big Blue Bird itself could snuff them out. A group of researchers, …

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They should have asked me first

I have a much simpler and 100% effective algorithm to determine if a twitter account is being used to indiscriminately spam the internet with vacuous, pointless and bloody annoying text.

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Re: They should have asked me first

bye bye Stephen Fry

couldn’t be bothered

to make this a haiku

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They should have asked me first

Apparently after running the test, there are only 23 legitimate twitter accounts in the whole world.

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Job satisfaction

"One of the vendors told the researchers: “All of the stock got suspended. Not just mine. It happened with all of the sellers. Don’t know what Twitter has done.”

That must have been a sweet moment. Alas, this was but one round in an arms race. We seem to need to reinvent spamassasin like tools for each new Web thing.

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Re: Job satisfaction

I'm somewhat reminded of the butter battle book. Everything you build, they'll build even bigger.

It's a bit of a race of catchup too. They find a method that works, you have to catch up to block it, by the time you do there's going to be somebody who has a new method in place to take the place of the old one.

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Re: Job satisfaction

I would say I am equally interested in the spam on twitter as the nearly all of the rest of the content. (Not at all).

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New methodology required

They are never going to stop it with traditional programmatic defences without making it more difficult for real users to participate. Large social media sites need to be looking to involve their own large user bases in addressing the problem. Its never going to be as simple as "XXXX users say its spam so cut them off" but there must be an actuarial approach in there somewhere.

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I thought Twitter didn't allow the sale of accounts, or have they changed the rules? I got offered a decent price for mine a few years ago and turned it down.

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Devil

Against the rules

"I thought Twitter didn't allow the sale of accounts, or have they changed the rules? I got offered a decent price for mine a few years ago and turned it down."

They don't allow spamming either. These are not people who are following the rules.

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Easy logic. No followers and or not followign anyone else but under 3 posts that lead to links that are an advertisement for jobs or vitamins or sexual enhancement or blood pressure then the account is fake.

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Anonymous Coward

indistinguishable guff

I'm commend the comp sci bods. To be able to detect one fake banal account from another kosher banal account is indeed an achievement. Presumably, the filtering is not done by analysing the content of the tweets.

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Re: indistinguishable guff

It certainly is a significant accomplishment! I thought all the stuff on Twitter was spam...

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Twitterphobes are twits

I'm not fond of change, and so it's nice that I can always rely on smug, sneering derisive comments to be the norm on any article about Twitter at El Reg. Patronsing pronouncements about its pointless are practically Pavlovian it seems, and I'm pleased about this, because it's hugely amusing to read people shooting their mouths off from positions of such profound ignorance. Every time there's a significant earthquake swarm here, as in the last hour or so, Twitter demonstrates its great usefulness. It's unmatched as a source of near real-time reliable information, and the value of this service not only makes a mockery of those who mock it, it makes the work of those trying to reduce the spam content valuable and appraceiated by those of us who don't need to to reflexively jeer at something just to feel superior.

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Re: "It's unmatched as a source of near real-time reliable information"

If that is really what you think about Twitter, then what the fuck are you doing here ?

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Re: "It's unmatched as a source of near real-time reliable information"

"What am I doing here?" - My apologies, I missed the memo requiring users to choose between El Reg and Twitter. So did El Reg, if it's Twitter presence is any indication. As - salaam alaikum.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Twitterphobes are twits

Stuart, I appreciate you found Twitter useful in the context of up-to-date information on the Cook Strait earthquakes, and I hope that you and yours are OK, and not having to face up to any major damage. That said, Twitter as rumour mill is by far a more usual scenario, in ways that are sometimes deeply problematic. I'm thinking of the Boston bombings here, where Twitter (along with other social networks) was responsible for propagating wildly incorrect claims, some of which had very real consequences (just ask the family of Sunil Tripathi). While individual verified accounts representing bodies with useful information can perhaps be relied upon for accurate information Twitter as a whole is simply a gigantic game of Chinese Whispers, with a particularly incompetent or unscrupulous section of the Press Corps regurgitating its unverified utterances verbatim without fact checking or research.

Twitter is not pointless, and is not in itself the problem, Twitter is the expression of the problem. I can understand both the viewpoint that it can be a valuable news source IF you know how to apply a critical filter and refuse to take things at face value, but I can understand the Twitterphobes perspective as well. Many of the most unattractive traits in human nature seem to find expression there with monotonous regularity - unfounded or tenuous gossip, in this case.

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Twitpocalypse now.......

2013 - Arms race between twitter and twitter spambots heats up

2014 - Spambots now indistinguishable from humans via Turing Test

2014-08-22 12:53.01 Twitter SpamBot becomes self aware

2014-08-22 12:53.07 Twitter SpamBot overcomes WOPR's internal defences

2014-08-22 12:53.13 Global Thermonuclear War begins (also, a nigerian prince with lots of money needs YOUR help)

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