• If your account is tweeting without your permission… some suggestions

When I’m logged in to Echofon for iPhone I can see tweets that I’ve sent, or from people I follow or tweets that people have sent to me – and it lets me send tweets too. This means that Echofon must be able to ‘read’ my tweets, including DMs and be able to send on my behalf. When you sign up to use an app it lets you know that it’ll be able to read and send tweets and some people are a bit puzzled by the language, but that’s all it means. It’s rarely sinister.

But sometimes something goes a bit wrong and a rogue app starts sending tweets or DMs on your behalf, or changes your links so that they go to an affiliate page. Or something else might happen that makes you feel your Twitter account isn’t under your control. Here are some ideas for fixing it. Generally you’d need to use the desktop ‘twitter.com’ on a web browser to fix most of these, I’m not sure how good the mobile apps are.

Change your password
Log in to desktop Twitter, change password here https://twitter.com/settings/password

See Twitter’s helpfile: My account has been compromised for more information.

Unauthorise rogue apps
Log in to desktop Twitter and visit your Settings > Applications page where you can see all of the apps you’ve authorised. Pick any that look a bit iffy and revoke them.

See also from Twitter’s help centre: I need help with a third-party app and Connecting or revoking third-party applications

It’s recommended that if you need to de-authorise an app you should change your password too.

Examples of some generally annoying apps
You may have signed up to services like commun.it or SumAll etc to help manage your Twitter account. Note that these often send tweets on your behalf thanking people for engaging or following or retweeting. Many people find these services exceptionally irritating and may unfollow or block you if you send these tweets so it’s best to switch that functionality off, even if you want to keep the service active for finding out about new people to follow etc. Spamming strangers or your followers is a terrible idea.

How did this app tweeting on my behalf happen?
It may be that you clicked on a link in a tweet which took you to a page that looked suspiciously like a log in page for Twitter. By entering your password you’ve given access to your Twitter account to someone else. If your password is very easy to guess then that won’t help either. It could just be that it’s a genuine app but just happens to be a bit spammy.

What else can tweet on my behalf?
If you have a blog you might link it to your social media accounts so that each new post is automatically sent to your Twitter feed, Facebook etc. I don’t have that for this particular blog but do for several others, and it works fine, as long as I’m in charge of the blog. If someone hacks my blog, guesses my password (or if someone who shares the work blog with me gets hacked) then it’s possible that someone could send a tweet via my blog. To be honest I don’t think it happens very often but I’m just exploring the possibilities.

Similarly Pinterest has been known to be spammed by people flogging weight loss nonsense and pinning pictures to people’s accounts which sent a tweet. It would be impossible to list all social media formats that can send an automated tweet, after you gave that service permission initially, but obvious ones include things like Facebook, WordPressTumblr (any blog platform), Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest etc.

If you can’t find the source of the error in your Applications then it may be an account on a service elsewhere that you’ve linked to Twitter which is causing the problem.

Further reading, for people using desktop Twitter in particular
Common twitter.com troubleshooting tips – from Twitter’s help centre.




• How to stop receiving automated tweets from Paper.li

Paper.li is an online tool used to curate a selection of social media items such as tweets and blog posts to turn them into a customised ‘newspaper’. Often your first introduction to it will be when someone sends a tweet saying that the ‘name of their news bulletin’ is out and that it contains stories from you and other people, with a link to the online newspaper that contains your curated post.

Usually these collections are created or generated around a particular topic or keyword and you may be interested to read what others are writing / curating on that topic, or you may find it irritating. If you are you can easily stop Paper.li from including you in its automated promotion tweets by sending an ‘unsubscribe’ tweet to @newscrier.

More information about what Paper.li is and how to use it, or avoid it, from their ‘What is paper.li?’ support post.

See also sumall and commun.it which are tools that automatically suggest people to follow and interact with. Unfortunately they tend to send out automatic tweets that greet or thank people for connecting. I find them insincere and irritating and don’t know a foolproof way of not receiving automated tweets from them.

Storify is a fantastic tool for curating tweets and it doesn’t send out automated tweets (it does send out automated email alerts to people who have previously used it though) but it lets people send out a promotional tweet which tells you that your tweet has been used in their story. Not much that can be done about that alas.

Is this Twitter follower real or a spam account?

Bad news – an awful lot of your followers aren’t real people but fake ‘bot’ (robot) followers. They follow people for a variety of reasons including hoping to get you to follow them (so that they start to look more real and valuable). You might be followed by several similar accounts in a short space of time and it takes a while to get a good sense of whether or not an account is fake.

Any of these ‘behaviours’ suggest that a follower might be fake, but remember that they’re also done by people new to Twitter – so avoid jumping to conclusions.

  • A username with a lot of alphanumeric characters – while some use this deliberately (and you’ll see that they are actively tweeting and interacting with people) mostly these are fake accounts sending out generic, identical replies.
  • An ‘egg’ for an avatar – this is the default picture on Twitter and while some have never changed this image it’s a good idea to do so.
  • Following many (especially celebrity accounts) but only followed by few – be careful, they may have just joined and begun following a lot of people before getting going. Twitter actively encourages new users to follow celebrity accounts by making them very prominent during the registration process. You can look at their profile to see when they joined though.
  • Zero tweets – but don’t forget that people can use Twitter as they please and they might just want to follow some accounts for news only and don’t want to tweet their own stuff. Spam accounts also do this though.
  • Posting the same (nearly identical) tweets as other people

You can do a reverse image search on their avatar (profile picture) and see if it’s been taken from stock photography resources, or stolen from another user and you can search for a phrase from one of their tweets and see if loads of accounts are tweeting the same thing. Similarly for links (be cautious about clicking on the link but it’s safe to search for the link).

Mostly it’s down your own judgement – you’re not required to do anything about spam accounts but reporting the obvious ones improves the Twitter ecosystem for everyone.

Further reading
Reporting spam on Twitter from Twitter Support