Require captcha on Follow

  • Idea
  • Updated 6 years ago
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Last week, Mashable wrote an excellent post called 'Is Twitter About to Have a Big Spam' problem. One of the suggestions that was proposed is requiring captcha when following new people on Twitter. Yes, this would probably result in complaints from people who like the one-click follow option that is available today. But there are just too many people abusing the one-click Follow feature today through the use of bots and screen-scraping tools to "mass follow" hundreds of people in a short amount of time in an attempt to build their audience on Twitter.

There are a few ways to make the captcha less intrusive to users who are not abusing the Follow feature.

1. Only require captcha after someone has followed a large number of people (e.g. 200) in a short period of time

2. Only require captcha sporadically - e.g. after adding the 25th friend, after the 50th friend, etc.

Please consider adding this feature soon because we don't want Twitter to turn in to MySpace and there are clear signs that it's going in that direction.
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mdoeff

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  • concerned

Posted 7 years ago

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William Beutler

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Ideally, an image recognition CAPTCHA system. It hasn't been done well on a large scale yet, but it would be in keeping with Twitter's reputation for being fun. Rather than straining to guess whether it's a lowercase R or N, you get to solve a puzzle!

But I'd also take a wavy line through text before radically distorted characters.
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mdoeff

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William, great suggestion on using an image-based CAPTCHA. I'm sure that the creative minds at Twitter could come up with something fun, similar to what they have done with the down-time page.
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Eric Suesz

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Yes these are really good ideas. Nice suggestions.
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mdy

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It's a great idea, although I fear it won't solve the problem completely, since people can still use the API, IM, or SMS to mass-follow people.

In fact, it's probably easier to mass-follow a lot of people using the three other "channels" since they're all text-only, and scripts can be written up to automate the 'follow' activity.

What do you suppose would be a good equivalent captcha for the API, IM, and SMS?
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mdoeff

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Great points mdy. Here are my thoughts on the three other channels that you mentioned. None of these are silver bullets, but these are the first things that come to mind.

For people who follow using IM and SMS, Twitter could detect if someone is trying to add a large number of followers in a short amount of time and send a reply asking a simple question - e.g. 'What is 1 + 2?' Sending a 3 back would allow the Follow to go through and be processed. An incorrect response would cause the Follow to fail and prevent any more Follow attempts for some period of time - e.g. 3 hours.

For the API I think the best they can do is throttle the Follower requests, similar to how they throttle the number of refreshes that someone can do in an hour. They should also attach some signature to the Follow request that indicates which client / API initiated the follow (maybe they are already doing this?). If some abuse is detected - e.g. the infamous TwitterAdder app (follows 20 random people; rinse, repeat), the creator of that application should be warned. If the warnings are ignored they should be completely blacklisted.
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I hope that this suggestion never gets implemented. I don't want to be hindered if I go on a follow binge, and It goes against everything I like about the ability to tinker with twitter in different ways.

I haven't read the article, a link might be useful.
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mdy

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mdoeff

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Mashable has a post today about using CAPTCHA when following new people.
http://snurl.com/24g5i

I left a comment over there asking people to come over to this discussion thread. Also, they have put up a survey asking:
"Is it time for Twitter to move aggressively to prevent spammy accounts?"
There results of the survey are here: http://snurl.com/24g5d
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I say it should be based on tweet activity, age of the account, and rate of follows. And other forms of following should have a rate of follows limit based on the other items.
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AramVK

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I do not like this idea. I find it more important to easily follow someone then to have the little problem of seeing that a spam bot is following me..
Plus the API story is a big issue so I don't see this happening anyway soon.
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Lily

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I like the idea but hate CAPTCHAs that are impossible to decipher. I doubt Twitter would do anything different when using existing CAPTCHA systems is easier, so we'd be stuck trying to figure out if that's an l or an I or a 1 or a mutilated J. Unless they do go with something better than the cruddy CAPTCHAs that ruin legitimate users' experience, I think I'd rather see a reporting system (that actually works, unlike the useless failure that is @spam).