Twitter introduces new daily follow limit in bid to curb spamming

9 Apr 2019

Image: AllaSerebrina /Depositphotos

If you’re the type to follow hundreds of Twitter accounts every day, you may no longer be able to do so.

With Twitter under immense scrutiny over how it handles a sea of automated bots and human trolls, the social media giant has announced a new policy that could irk users who say they will ‘follow back’ for a follow.

In a tweet sent by the Twitter Safety team, the company said that effective immediately, the daily limit for the amount of people you can follow will reduce from 1,000 to 400. It finished its tweet, seemingly aimed at those who subscribe to the ‘follow back’ mantra, by saying: “Don’t worry, you’ll be just fine.”

Explaining the rationale behind the decision, Twitter’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, said that the company decided 400 was “a reasonable limit”.

“We found that nearly half of all accounts who made more than 400 follows per day were churning. That amounted to more than 20m follows each day, and a high rate of blocks and spam reports – a clear signal that inorganic follows are super annoying,” Roth said on Twitter.

“99.87pc of Twitter users are totally unaffected by this lower rate limit. Most people don’t need or want to follow that many accounts. But some legitimate accounts, like businesses providing customer service by direct messages, actually do need it, and we want to avoid burdening them.”

The tactic of following a person and unfollowing them has become a popular one in recent years, with the person following a new account hoping that the latter will follow them back. If this happens, it can be common for the original person to then unfollow the second person, thereby inflating the number of followers rather than follows.

The announcement follows a chain of events that began earlier this year, with Mashable reporting in February that Twitter had suspended three social media companies that had designed Twitter apps to rapidly follow and unfollow accounts.

At the time, Twitter said the companies’ actions violated its terms of service and that the decision was made to cut down on spam and improve ‘conversational health’.

Twitter’s actions against bots began in March 2018, with the banning of a number of popular accounts over mass-retweeting and spamming using a technique called ‘tweetdecking’. This saw users join secret TweetDeck groups that had a highly organised system of mass-retweeting, essentially creating viral content out of thin air.

Person logging into Twitter on their phone. Image: AllaSerebrina/Depositphotos

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic