Opting out of Twitter’s 3rd party community-building apps

There are a number of services that tell you how many followers you’ve gained this week, or that suggest people to follow etc. While these might be very useful for you or your company, in terms of building your network and getting an idea of various metrics, some of the services also send automatic thank you tweets to other people that have engaged with you. Many people find these types of tweets exceptionally irritating, I am one of them.

People who are not using the apps themselves are receiving tweets from those who are using them, but the senders are often unaware that the apps are sending out these types of tweet.

Twitter has best practice guidelines for apps that send automated replies.

“Users must also have a clear and easy way to opt-out of receiving automated reply messages and mentions from your application.” – Automation rules and best practices | Twitter Help Center (updated 7 April 2016)

In April 2017 Twitter updated its Automation page for developers “However, you may send automated replies or mentions to Twitter users so long as you provide a clear and easy way for such users to opt-out of receiving automated replies and mentions, and promptly honor all such opt-out requests” from Section 2. Posting automated mentions and replies.

If someone you interact with uses commun.it, for example, then you might receive an automated tweet from them thanking you for following, RTing, engaging, or being a ‘top influencer’. Often these tweets are not sent as standard reply to you only, but sent as public tweet (to all their followers and with several people mentioned) thereby maximising its reach. Each tweet includes a link to commun.it’s website advertising its product in the hope that others will sign up. I’m honestly surprised that Twitter permits this sort of thing – unsolicited automated replies sent to large numbers of users advertising services. Commun.it is probably the worst spammer but there are several others.

If you’ve received an unwanted tweet via one of these services below you should be able to opt out with these instructions. You don’t need to create an account with them in order to opt out, if you don’t want their users to tweet you through their service they should honour that.

If it’s your account that’s sending stuff out…

Log into the desktop version of Twitter and go to your Settings > Apps page and revoke the app, then change your password. If that doesn’t work then you may need to visit the App’s website and see if you can edit settings on your ‘account’ (often generated automatically once you’ve authorised the app, so log in with Twitter). If that fails search for the name of the app on Twitter and see if there’s a customer services person (eg @Linkishelp for Linkis).

  • c0nvey (note, spelled with the number zero) – appears to use Linkis
  • Linkis or Link.is – read this excellent guide by @kevwyke on how to stop this parasitical linking system. If you authorise it it will add ‘link.is/’ to every link you send out, which encourages other people to sign up and authorise it and so on. Pointless spam.

If someone else’s account is sending you stuff…

If you’ve signed up to use one of these services and have since thought better of it then you can revoke the app’s permission to use your account in the app bit of your settings.

• What’s the difference between mute & block? (Mute often better)

Mute and block allow you to customise what you see from other accounts. They have no impact on what others can see of your account though. 

Blocking someone on Twitter can never stop them from seeing your tweets (they can log out, use search engines, another account or a third party app to view your tweets).

The block function is pretty absolute and stops all communications from a blocked account. The effect of the mute function varies depending on whether or not you’re following the person you’re muting.

Muting someone that you follow
This will stop their general public timeline tweets from appearing in your home timeline. Any tweet they send that doesn’t include your @-name will disappear, but they can still send you mentions and if they RT or fav one of your tweets you’ll get a notification*. They won’t know you’ve muted them, though I suppose they may be able to work it out if you never comment on any of their other tweets. You can see who you’ve muted here (on desktop Twitter, link won’t work if you’re not logged in)

Muting someone that you don’t follow
It’s surprisingly powerful. They’ll completely disappear – they can’t send you a tweet (well they can but the tweet will never arrive and you won’t see it unless you look at their profile or search for tweets sent to your name) and while they can RT and favourite your tweets you’ll never get a notification for those either.

Muting an account that you don’t follow you is a very nice way of blocking them without blocking them. They won’t know that they’ve been muted (whereas they can find out if they’ve been blocked). This may be useful if you don’t want to get into a tedious ‘why have you blocked me’ discussion.

You can still keep an eye on their tweets
Of course you may actually want to see tweets that are sent to you, or activity on your tweets, eg to to check what someone’s up to. You can search for your own username on Twitter and tweets sent from muted accounts will show up, you can also view their profile and see what they’ve RTed / favourited etc.

Blocking has the same effect if you follow them or not
Once you’ve blocked someone their tweets won’t get through. If you were also following them then you’re instantly no longer following them (and if they were following you they’re now not following). However the big difference is that, if they’re using official Twitter apps or platforms, they can work out that you’ve blocked them. They won’t be able to RT or favourite your tweets and they may be told that you’ve blocked them, and they can’t see your tweets. If they’re using third party apps such as Echofon or Tweetdeck etc they won’t necessarily notice. Although your tweets aren’t likely to be sent to them (it may depend on the app) even if they look at your profile they’ll see all your tweets and so if they’re using those types of apps exclusively they may not realise they’re blocked.

If you’ve blocked an account but want to view some of the tweets you may need to click a ‘view tweets’ option to view without unblocking (this is app-dependent). You can log out too of course and view any public account’s tweets. Note that if the person you’ve muted (or blocked) has a very new or high-spam account then its tweets may not appear in search, see ‘Why am I missing from search?‘ (from Twitter’s support pages).

Muting and blocking achieve more or less the same aims but muting does it in a much more nuanced way. If your account is public then you can’t stop anyone from seeing your tweets but you can control (to some extent^) what you see from them, and muting achieves this without drawing attention to itself.

A great thing on desktop Twitter (I’ve not checked to see where else it is) is the option to see only Notifications+ Mentions, or Mentions from people that you follow. This dramatically reduces annoyance from people or ‘bots’ that are aggressively favouriting your tweets and means you don’t get a notification when they RT something. I’m assuming you’ve already switched off any notifications arriving by email but if not you can find the settings option (on desktop Twitter) here:

Email notifications: https://twitter.com/settings/notifications
Web notifications: https://twitter.com/settings/web_notifications

Here are the links for Notifications + Mentions, and Mentions only filtered by people that you follow – these links will only work if you’re logged in to desktop Twitter of course.

Notifications + Mentions: https://twitter.com/i/notifications?filter=following
Mentions only: https://twitter.com/mentions?filter=following

If you are getting lots of annoying tweets from people, or bots favouriting stuff then ‘muting at notifications’ level is probably a better bet as it will wipe out all tweets and activity except from people that you follow, and saves you having to take an action on multiple individual accounts.

^Seeing tweets of someone you’ve blocked
This can happen when other people that you follow retweet their tweet. What’s happening here is that (a) the blockee’s account is public (b) you follow someone and see all the tweets that they send (c) they ‘forward’ (by RTing) a blockee’s public tweet and so you’ll see it.

I don’t know of a way around it beyond switching off RTs from the person you follow (but someone else you follow could also RT a tweet from someone you’ve blocked, so it’s a bit leaky). If anyone knows a solution…

Twitter’s closed its loophole on searching blocked tweets (but not very well)

As of 25 June 2018 Twitter’s changed things so that… The “from:user” search workaround for seeing a blocker’s tweets (while still logged in) has stopped working however it still seems to work fine on Dabr.eu

Note: anyone you’ve blocked can always see your tweets if your account is public. They can log out, or use a second account, or a third party app (eg Echofon) to see them.

If you search for a hashtag on Twitter, let’s say #homeopathy, you’ll probably no longer see tweets from people who’ve blocked you (perhaps for pointing out that they’re making misleading and possibly illegal health claims but that’s for a different blog). You’ll also no longer be able to see their tweets if you run a check using the from:username search string – Twitter now returns zero results.

So it looks as if Twitter’s ‘fixed’ the problem that arose where person B who had been blocked by Person A could still see Person A’s tweets with relative ease. This might seem like a good thing if you don’t want someone that you’ve blocked to be able to see your tweets.

Despite the change that Twitter’s recently implemented it affects ONLY the official Twitter apps (such as Twitter for iPhone, Twitter.com on desktop browsers etc). It does not affect Tweetdeck on browsers, or Echofon for iPhone and I’d conclude from this that third party apps and platforms are unaffected by the change.

This means that users who tweet using official Twitter platforms will see things very differently from those using third party apps (who can see a lot more). Which is fine if they’re aware of that, but it often comes as a surprise.

Most third party apps will also display your profile to an account that you’ve blocked (in fact the person you’ve blocked may not even realise it. I didn’t spot that a homeopath had blocked me as, on Echofon for iPhone, I could (& can) still see and reply to their tweets).

Here’s how people you’ve blocked could see your tweets
or Here’s how you could see the tweets of people you’ve blocked)
• use a third party app such as Echofon where they can see your profile, and view tweets sent to a hashtag (even while logged in to their primary account)
• log into a secondary account on an official Twitter app
• view tweets sent TO you when using an official Twittter app (while logged in on their primary account) and click one to see the conversation thread which reveals your tweets
• log out on desktop Twitter (all public accounts are viewable and searchable)

Why do I keep boring on about this?
There is a persistent and mistaken belief among many users on Twitter (I’ve been actively monitoring this for 15 months now) that blocking someone means they can no longer see your tweets. This is not true now and has never been true. In fact it will never be true while it is possible to view public tweets once logged out.

My mum once worked as a secretary for a distinguished professor who had a three drawer filing cabinet. He called my mum into his office once to show off his DIY skills – he’d managed to add a lock mechanism to one of the drawers. Unfortunately he’d picked only the bottom drawer to lock and was a bit despondent when my mum pulled out the drawer above and pointed out that anyone could access his papers that way. That’s a bit like Twitter’s block. It looks like it offers some protection but doesn’t – but it isn’t immediately obvious, and people don’t need technical skills to see the tweets.

Background info on the change
Below are some tweets from someone working at Twitter who answered someone’s enquiries about the change –

“The blocked user won’t see your tweets via search, either” – but only affects official apps. “They will see tweets from other users that @mention you” – and can click on these to see the conversation thread which includes your tweets.

Did they send that tweet themself, or use automated software?

Desktop Twitter no longer includes information about what client / platform / application etc was used to send the tweet, which removes a tiny bit of information about how the tweet was sent. Normally you’d never need to know (or care) but sometimes it might be useful to know if someone was sitting at their computer and hand-typing in the tweet, or if the tweet had previously been scheduled to be sent at a particular time.

Knowing this info might be useful in a vaguely forensic setting, but I have no idea if the evidence would be admissible in an actual court. It cannot prove who logged in to the account and typed the tweet of course, but may be useful in building a picture of how Twitter was being used by the account.

Echofon for iPhone is both a free and paid-for app on iphones that will tell you what application was used to send any tweet, Fenix is an equivalent for Android phones (hat tip @bitoclass & @skepticosaurus). You can click on any tweet and it will appear on its own page with info at the bottom saying ‘Via XYZ’.

  • Via Echofon obviously means the sender is also a user of that app.
  • Via Twitter for iPhone or iPad tells you they typed it in using an iPhone and the official Twitter app.
  • Via Twitter Web Client tells you that they used a desktop browser to type the tweet by hand. Until  recently it was also possible for someome to ‘fake’ this by downloading the  Chrome browser and send a tweet from there using their phone. The tweet was sent by phone but would show up as being sent from the desktop version. However Twitter’s now changed its settings and this is currently, or no longer, possible.
  • Via Buffer tells you that the tweet was scheduled for future posting
  • Via WordPress.com or other blog tells you that the tweet has been sent on the publication of a blog post (which may itself have been scheduled in advance)

See also Forensic Twitter.

• 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.

• Twitter now lets you see the tweets of people who’ve blocked you

Updated March 2016 – official Twitter platforms now make it harder to see tweets in search results but this doesn’t affect third party apps.

Actually ‘now’ is a little bit cheeky of me. It’s always been like that and I’m pretty confident it will always be that way – because Twitter is “default public” by which I mean that you don’t need to be logged in to Twitter to view anyone’s account. If someone’s blocked you then you can view their tweets by logging out because once you’ve logged out Twitter doesn’t know that you’re the person they’ve blocked and, if their account is public, it will let you see their tweets.

In fact Twitter is so public that there’s probably no need for you to log out. Most of the apps that people use on their phones and tablets (such as Echofon or Janetter) will show their profile to you and desktop apps like Tweetdeck will do the same. You can also search Google to see any public tweets.

Official Twitter platforms such as desktop Twitter (twitter.com on a web browser) will probably tell you that you can’t view their tweets or follow them because they’ve blocked you but if you search for their name (from:theirname to see tweets they’ve sent or to:theirname / @theirname to see tweets sent to them, theirname (by itself) will bring up either) you’ll see all of their tweets. The only thing you can’t do is to favourite or RT them (you can copy and paste the text of their tweet and manually retweet it though).

There is no technological solution to this other than for Twitter to make its interface more closed. I strongly suspect that Twitter doesn’t wish to do this.

The only way someone can stop someone else from viewing their tweets is to stop everyone (other than approved followers) from viewing their tweets by making their account private.

Some ways you can view people’s tweets even after they’ve blocked you

  1. Search for their name (the desktop version of Twitter is a better way to search) on Twitter or Google
  2. Use a third party app that shows profiles even if they’ve blocked you
  3. Log out from Twitter

Note: this is one of two otherwise identical posts. This one is written from the perspective of someone who’s been blocked by someone else, the other post is from the perspective of someone who’s done the blocking.

• Twitter now lets people you’ve blocked see your tweets

Updated March 2016 – official Twitter platforms now make it harder to see tweets in search results but this doesn’t affect third party apps.

Actually ‘now’ is a little bit cheeky of me. It’s always been like that and I’m pretty confident it will always be that way – because Twitter is “default public” by which I mean that you don’t need to be logged in to Twitter to view anyone’s account. If you’ve blocked someone they can view your tweets by logging out because once they’ve logged out Twitter doesn’t know that they’re the person you’ve blocked and, if your account is public, it will let them see your tweets.

In fact Twitter is so public that there’s probably no need for them to log out. Most of the apps that people use on their phones and tablets (such as Echofon or Janetter) will show your profile to people you’ve blocked and desktop apps like Tweetdeck will do the same. People can also search Google to see any public tweets.

Official Twitter platforms such as desktop Twitter (twitter.com on a web browser) will probably tell them that they can’t view your tweets or follow you because you’ve blocked them but if they search for your name (from:yourname to see tweets you’ve sent or to:yourname / @yourname to see tweets sent to you, yourname (by itself) will bring up either) they’ll see all your tweets. The only thing they can’t do is to favourite or RT them (they can copy and paste the text of your tweet and manually retweet it though).

There is no technological solution to this other than for Twitter to make its interface more closed. I strongly suspect that Twitter doesn’t wish to do this.

If you want to stop one particular person from reading your tweets then unfortunately you have to stop everyone (other than approved followers) from reading them and make your account private.

Some ways people can view your tweets even after you’ve blocked them

  1. Search for your name (the desktop version of Twitter is a better way to search) on Twitter or Google
  2. Use a third party app that shows profiles even if you’ve blocked them
  3. Log out from Twitter

Note: this is one of two otherwise identical posts. This one is written from the perspective of someone who’s blocked someone else, the other post is from the perspective of someone who’s been blocked.

• What’s a #hashtag for?

On Twitter you might see a hash symbol (#)  in front of a word in someone’s tweet, for example #twitterhelp. The hashtagged word will also show appear as blue1 text which means that it’s clickable – if you click on it you’ll be taken to a search results page with other tweets similarly tagged. Applying a tag to a word in your tweet effectively creates a channel, or category, for that tweet which easily lets people view all2 the tweets on that topic.

Hashtags are often used by people at events, eg a conference. Lots of people will be there, they might not be following everyone else but if they all use the same hashtag then they can easily participate in a conversation about the event – and people not at the event can join in from wherever they are.

Hashtags are also much used while watching television programmes. The series 3 finale of BBC’s Sherlock notably generated a flurry of #Sherlock-tagged tweets from people celebrating the programme, but more controversial programmes also allow complete strangers to argue with each other over the internet, via hashtag.

In short, tagging lets you view or participate in conversations on Twitter beyond just the people that you follow (and who follow you) and it lets everyone read all the identically-tagged tweets as a ‘channel’ separate from their main timeline.

Here are the ‘top tweets’ for #twitterhelp and ‘all’ the tweets for the same hashtag, I’ve included the full address so you can see how they’re different. It makes no difference whether it’s #Twitterhelp or #twitterhelp by the way.

Top: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23twitterhelp&src=typd
All: https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&vertical=default&q=%23twitterhelp&src=typd

Hashtags as commentary
People also use what linguists call ‘commentary’ hashtags – adding a comment or emotion in hashtag form. These aren’t being used to widen the conversation, more as a way of expression.

Further reading

See also
How to search for hashtags, and for other things, on Twitter (2015) by me, on this blog

1 re: blue coloured links – some users customise their colour-scheme so if you’re looking at their profile page links might show up a different colour, however in your ‘home’ timeline you’ll see everything as the same colour

2 When you click on the hashtag on the desktop version of Twitter you’ll be shown the ‘top tweets’ for #twitterhelp first, but if you want to see everything you’ll need to click ‘Live’ in the options at the top. On a mobile or tablet app you’ll probably see all of the tweets.

Why do people put a . in front of an @ at the start of a tweet?

It lets them send the tweet to all of their followers.

Any message you send beginning with @name is delivered to @name’s notifications (it also shows up in their timeline but they might not see it if they’re not online at the same time) and into the timelines (but not notifications) of anyone who’s following both you and @name.

While anyone can see any public tweet you sent by looking at your profile (if you’ve blocked them they can just log out by the way) no-one else will receive a copy of your tweet.

Any non-alphanumeric character before the @ disrupts the ‘addressing system’ and will deliver your tweet to all of your followers’ timelines. By convention the least visibly intrusive character is a full stop . but you can use , ‘ / etc. Numbers or letters won’t work because they also stop the @name from working (if it doesn’t show up as a blue clickable link it won’t go to their mentions).

You can also rewrite the tweet so that a word or phrase appears before the @name (in which case you don’t need the .).

Some confusion arises because the @name convention functions in three distinct ways

  • as an addressing system to send a message to them
  • as a denoter to say who has done something
  • as an address to say that you are at a place


I could send these three tweets

  1. @barbicancentre I really enjoyed that event last night
  2. @barbicancentre will be screening this fantastic film tonight
  3. I am @barbicancentre

In the first I’m telling the Barbican Centre I’ve enjoyed an event of theirs. In the second I am (unsuccessfully) telling my followers that there’s a film on at the Barbican Centre (only BC and people following both me and BC will see it). In the third I’m clumsily announcing my location.

For the second example to work I’d need to use the . or rewrite the tweet, either of these would work:

  • .@barbicancentre will be screening this fantastic film tonight
  • I’ll be @barbicancentre for this fantastic film later

The strategy of . @ (“dot at”) is sometimes used to draw attention to someone else’s tweet, perhaps one that you disagree with. When using it in this way if you have a lot of followers, or you have ‘surfaced’ an otherwise hidden but slightly controversial tweet that others haven’t yet noticed, you might find that your followers ‘pile on’ to this other person and criticise them for their tweet. Just something to be aware of. A disproportionate ‘show of powe’r can come back to bite you.

How often should I tweet?

The basic rule on Twitter is that you tweet as you please and others can decide whether or not to follow or engage with you.

This works fine for personal accounts (the focus of this blog) but perhaps less so for professional accounts (not really the focus of this blog). In general I wouldn’t recommend sending out streams of tweets in one go as you’ll take up a lot of room in your followers’ timelines. If you’re live-tweeting an event it’s courteous to let your followers know that they can mute you or the hashtag you’re using.

You can tweet the same information and / or link several times by varying the text that accompanies the link, or adopting conventions like ‘for the afternoon crowd’ or ‘ICYMI’ (in case you missed it). These types of strategies are often used by journalists and news accounts too.

A nice thing I’ve seen people do is send a tweet and then a few minutes later send another one that refers to the first. Someone might catch the second or third tweet, be intrigued, and track backwards to see what was said originally.