Twitter Adds Warning Sign for ‘Suspicious Accounts’

Company unveils several new measures to block “spammy” behavior

Twitter User
Getty Images

In its ongoing battle to make its app less of a breeding ground for internet trolls, Twitter will start adding warnings to “suspicious accounts,” the company announced on Tuesday.

What Twitter means by “suspicious” is a bit vague, judging from its blog post. Users showing “spammy” behavior — following accounts in “coordinated, bulk ways” — will be put in a read-only state, where they can’t tweet at other users. These accounts will be purged from the follower count of users they’re following, until they’ve been verified by Twitter. Accounts acting “suspiciously” will also be tagged with a warning label, and prevent new accounts from following them until they’ve been verified.

Twitter announced several other measures the company is taking to curb trolling. It started auditing existing accounts to make sure they pass “simple, automatic security checks”; the audits have been weeding out 50,000 spam accounts per day, according to Twitter. New accounts will also be confirmed either by email or phone number. The company is also leveraging more machine learning tools to proactively flag “problematic accounts,” rather than wait for users to report them. The tools have helped Twitter identify 9.9 million spam or automated accounts each week in May — up from 3.2 million last September.

The San Francisco-based company has seen a dramatic turnaround from a business-standpoint, with its share price more than doubling in the last year. But it also grappled with its inability to stop Russian trolls from spreading misinformation during the 2016 U.S. election, as well as criticism it capriciously enforces its user guidelines. At the same time, Twitter has rolled out several new measures to promote the “health of public conversation” on the app, as CEO Jack Dorsey put it.

“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers,” tweeted Dorsey in March. “We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough.”