Although I don’t use Twitter often, yesterday, I wandered over there and took at look at the happenings in the Twitterverse. Much to my surprise, I had a lovely red notice on my page that said my account was suspended.
If you click the link on the big red box on your page, you find a page, which I now know contains the “Foul Owl.” (Not to be confused with the Fail Whale, which is equally useless, yet different.)
The Foul Owl told me that I could look at the Twitter status to see if something was wrong with Twitter and suggested that I also check the Help to see if I had violated the Terms of Service. I had not. The TOS are what you might expect: don’t spam, don’t abuse the system. Duh.
Heck, I barely even USE the system. I post my status using Ping.fm, so it updates Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In all at the same time. Truth be told, in general I think Twitter is a big, buggy waste of time. The search tool has never worked for me, and the only reason I signed up is to communicate with those businesspeople who now ignore their email and communicate exclusively via Twitter messages.
In any case, I learned that if your account is suspended, your only recourse is to dredge up the incredibly tiny link in the online help page to send a support email to Twitter. After about 15 minutes of searching, I finally found it and sent the requisite message. Twitter then has 30 days to decide whether you are really a spammer. How pathetic is that? I realize it’s a free service, but the thing that’s sort of alarming is that Twitter seems to suspend accounts without cause a lot. Do a search on Google for Twitter suspended account. You’ll see what I mean. Many people never get their accounts restored at all.
This morning, I found out that my suspension wasn’t my fault. Apparently, yesterday Twitter “accidently” suspended a number of accounts. They “regret the human error” and my account is restored. (If you’re curious, I’m @susandaffron, which appears to be alive again.)
However, this situation is ample proof why you NEVER want to base all your marketing efforts around some outside third-party system. This could come as a rude shock to those frantic Twitter users who buy $2000 infoproducts, sign up for monthly coaching programs that tell them how to “work” the system, and amass tons of “followers.” All that time and money goes to waste when Twitter randomly suspends your account.
Sadly, this incident is not terribly different from the email disaster that affected my hosting company last week. A black list called SpamHaus listed all the IP addresses in my hosting company’s email block as spammer IPs. So all email from my account was bouncing back. After a failed effort to work with SpamHaus to get their block removed, my hosting company actually had to move the mail server.
Nobody likes spam, but I’m really sick and tired of people implementing “solutions” that kill REAL communication from REAL people. Talk about overkill. The only tools that actually work against spam are ones where humans have to prove they are real. Spammers have to use automated systems in order to get the volume needed to make any money. Spam is all about money, so to fight it, you need to create systems that make it too expensive to spam.
Sure people may whine about challenge-response systems, but SpamArrest is the only thing that has worked against spam. To date, it has blocked 321,828 pieces of spam on just one account. Because they use automated bots, spammers simply don’t click through.
Twitter needs to put in some better type of authentication system to keep the vermin out. Randomly deleting accounts basically assumes people are guilty first. It’s stupid, but not surprising from a company whose answer to technical problems is to simply post a whale.