The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Crime Is a People Problem: Why @Twitter Must Prosecute Fake Account Makers

Posted on | September 13, 2013 | 128 Comments

How hard is it to miss this as a Twitter avatar? As thousands upon thousands of fake accounts — all of them evidently generated by an algorithmic software program — have piled on following me on Twitter, I have tried to point out the obvious pattern:

That all of these fake accounts are so similar, and use a limited number of avatar images, it seems logical that locating the source of this fraudulent menace would be simple, as would identifying and deleting all of the bogus accounts created by this criminal scheme.

What is shocking to me is that people continue telling me that I need to do this or that thing — download some software, visit a certain Web site, switch my account settings — in order to prevent this fake swarm. No, no, no — that’s wrong. This is Twitter’s problem. Twitter’s service is being used fraudulently, and it is incumbent on Twitter to prevent their law-abiding users from being targeted by criminals.


This is an old-fashioned common-sense idea that contradicts what has become Conventional Wisdom in the post-modern age.

Crime does not occur randomly within society. Not all persons are equally prone to commit theft, robbery, assault, rape or murder.

The vast majority of serious crime is committed by a rather tiny segment of the population — people who are habitual criminals, and who will not cease to be a menace to their fellow citizens until they are put in prison or sent to their graves.  Some juvenile delinquents will, as they mature, grow out of their youthful lawlessness, but fear of severe punishment (including long incarceration) for criminal acts is the only possible deterrence to those who are habitually devoted to a life of crime.

Law enforcement is most effective when it understands that crime doesn’t just “happen” randomly or coincidentally, but is the result of human action, and that the purpose of law enforcement is to locate, identify, apprehend, prosecute and imprison wrongdoers.

Think about this: If you go into a community and see iron bars on people’s windows, does that make you feel safe? No, it has the opposite effect. Where law-abiding citizens are so fearful that they live behind locked doors and don’t dare walk the streets at night, you know that criminals are being allowed to roam free, and that the criminal population in that community is so large and active that the police have effectively surrendered control of the streets.

The same thing is true of the online community. If spammers, hackers, perverts and other criminals are allowed to use the Internet for their illegal purposes without consequence — if online criminals do not fear apprehension and prosecution — you can be sure that the law-abiding Internet users will be forced to fight an ever-escalating war of defense against the wrongdoers. The more common cyber-security becomes, the more sophisticated will become the methods by which criminals seek to evade cyber-security.

Online as in real life, every time a criminal gets away with illegal activity, he will be emboldened to further crimes, until he becomes so arrogant about his ability to evade prosecution that his continued spree of criminality is like an advertisement of the ineffectiveness of law enforcement: “You can’t catch me, cops!” Where wrongdoers no longer fear justice, the innocent must always fear wrongdoers.

Twitter is permitting this lawlessness. If they were genuinely determined to prevent the mass creation of fake accounts, there would not be — there could not be — these tens of thousands of fakes that have descended on my account like Egyptian locusts. After nearly 48 hours of this plague, I’m not just angry about the harassment, I’m becoming angry at other people for not being angry about it.


Go read that. You should be very angry.


UPDATE: Really, could it be more obvious?

The fact that these accounts — tens of thousands of them — are being manufactured by an algorithmic program should make detection of the source simple, if Twitter were really serious about stopping the mass manufacturing of such fake accounts. Because Twitter evidently doesn’t care, the criminals have no fear of being prosecuted, and therefore don’t even bother to conceal their fraudulent activity.



128 Responses to “Crime Is a People Problem: Why @Twitter Must Prosecute Fake Account Makers”

  1. Jeanette_Runyon
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

    RT @rsmccain: Crime Is a People Problem: Why @Twitter Must Prosecute Fake Account Makers #tcot @stayoffinternet @Owa…

  2. JimRyals
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

    RT @Lockestep1776: Crime Is a People Problem: Why @Twitter Must Prosecute Fake Account Makers: ; How hard is it to miss this as a… http:/…

  3. K-Bob
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

    Why not ask Dick Costolo?

    Last time I checked making a profit and doing a hotly-anticipated IPO was, at the very least, a bit beyond scraping by.

  4. K-Bob
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

    Looks good! I found out there’s a sort of Radosh vs. West thing going on between the proprietor of the “III” site versus the guy who claims to have “invented” the concept (numbers, who would have thunk?). But however it’s rolling, it’s for damn sure rolling.

    I suspect this will pick up steam far faster than anyone is prepared for. Interesting times, indeed.

  5. Bob Belvedere
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

    All he’s said is that he likes ’em crazy and has hinted he doesn’t mind those who’ve had a few extra helpings of biscuits and gravy.

    Also, TD, if you study that gal’s attributes you will see they heading for sloppy-floppy.

  6. K-Bob
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

    The last telegraph office closed recently. But as my wife’s email account can testify, spam still works for someone.

  7. Bob Belvedere
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:21 pm

    I hadn’t noticed…

  8. K-Bob
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

    Hackers don’t so much employ “skills” as utilize hacker tools. A total novice can get a botnet operational fairly quickly. You just don’t have to be afraid to read up on Linux command line syntax.

    There’s a definite learning curve, but hackers don’t have to start out at the breakout box (a data communications analysis tool) level anymore.

  9. K-Bob
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    Ahh, an “eyes” man. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  10. R. K. Delka
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

    Unfortunately, Twitter’s value is determined (to a large degree) by the number of registered users. They have no desire to stop this kind of behavior. Especially with an IPO coming up. If they cleaned up all of the fraudulent account, people that took usernames as squatters, etc. it would be a big blow.

  11. R. K. Delka
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

    Just imagine the investor feedack if the number of Twitter accounts went from 500m to 25m overnight

  12. Grumpy
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

    I understand what Stacy’s saying, but….

    I doubt there’s much twitter can actually do– Yes they can track down the current offending servers – that’s easy.. Yes they can block them, no big deal. Minutes later the bots will hit from another server someplace else,,

    There are hundreds, if not thousands of hosting companies around the world that make their living providing a home for hackers, bots and other offensive internet critters.. and that doesn’t include innocent people who’ve been hijacked by a botnet

    Check Botnet on Wikipedia..

  13. Grumpy
    September 13th, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

    It’s not really human users with multiple names that are the problem – it’s bot’s that generate and register hundreds/thousands of user names from a single server, and often the people behind the bots are part of a network of servers

  14. rmnixondeceased
    September 13th, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

    On the road there but not at the floppy station quite yet …

  15. rmnixondeceased
    September 13th, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

    Heh. A lot of people think I can’t run again but there is no legislation that says I cannot … even the amendments support my run. Obama legally cannot at this time. An Executive Order allowing a third (4th or more even) is a distinct possibility with this assclown in power.

  16. rmnixondeceased
    September 13th, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

    Heh. You catch on quick my friend …

  17. MattRoss
    September 13th, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

    I think Grump’s right. Get on a server in some crapistan country, and spam away. That, and botnets. They probably can’t track it all down.

    And, are you “slut shaming” with that first pic? I know you have a history…lol

  18. thatMrGguy
    September 13th, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

    Crime Is a People Problem: Why @Twitter Must Prosecute Fake Account Makers

  19. Fareedi al Laayla al Qakhaul
    September 13th, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

    No brainer, I suppose…

    I am in absolute awe of what RSM resolutely endures every day in simply plying his legal trade! And it reassures me I am on the right side when his (our) critics employ such vicious, desperate and underhanded tactics in an effort to suppress the truth…

  20. Cube
    September 14th, 2013 @ 2:10 am

    Maybe we should. Evil needs to be actively suppressed.

  21. JadedByPolitics
    September 14th, 2013 @ 9:02 am

    Crime Is a People Problem: Why @Twitter Must Prosecute Fake Account Makers

  22. ‘Gosh, Stacy, There’s No Way @Twitter Could Spot All These Fake Accounts’ : The Other McCain
    September 14th, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

    […] Sept. 13: Crime Is a People Problem: Why @Twitter Must Prosecute Fake Account Makers […]

  23. VekTor
    September 14th, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

    There are some pretty easy interim stopgap solutions that Twitter could implement to help prevent the abuse which leads to Twitter Gulag and the strategies to defend against it.

    #1. Apply a very, very steep “discount” (even 100%) to new user accounts when it comes to assigning the weight of any “report for spam” claims.

    #2. Always apply a zero weight to any “report for spam” where the user in question never actually sent a reply or mention to the reporting user. They are not “spamming” you if you follow them and don’t like what they have to say to their general audience. Unfollow them or block them, either way you don’t get to legitimately claim that they spammed you.

    #3. After #1 and #2 are in place, do not Gulag anyone that has been reported for spam without having a human verify that they are, in fact, spamming. Twitter doesn’t have the staff for that? No problem, crowd-source it out with volunteers who are rated and vetted by the accuracy of their determinations in a hierarchical fashion, and do not Gulag unless a strong majority of volunteers who have been vetted as reliable agree on their determination that spam is taking place.

    The existing strategy of “gulag first, ask questions later” with regard to spam is what has led to these problems. Reverse the nature of the way account suspensions happen, and things will work out far, far better in the long run.

    Just my opinion, of course.

  24. VekTor
    September 14th, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

    This is largely (and almost exclusively) a problem ONLY because Twitter assigns algorithmic weight to the decision of random (and new) accounts to “report for spam” someone who has never personally engaged them in any Twitter conversation, EVER.

    That is Twitter’s decision, and that’s a problem for a lot of users, which is why TGDN had to become a thing.

    No one whom I have NEVER sent a reply or a mention to on Twitter should EVER get a “vote” on whether I am a spammer or not.

    The only way I can have anything EVER be visible to them is if they chose to follow me, and they should be (and are) free to unfollow me or block me if they don’t like what I have to say.

    But they should never have a “heckler’s veto” over me, but Twitter’s algorithms give them the ability to do so, no matter how good my behavior is, simply because I have unpopular opinions.

    Want to stop the consequences of the abuse of the “report for spam” function? Lobby Twitter to change the algorithmic nature of the type of decision being made, and remove the power of EVERYONE to abuse it, no matter what their motives or method for account creation is.

  25. VekTor
    September 14th, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

    “Prosecutions” aren’t remotely necessary so long as random people no longer have the ability to muzzle you from speaking to ANYONE on Twitter because they don’t like your opinion.

    Fix that, and it’s pretty much moot that people create fake accounts… because it doesn’t affect you then.

  26. VekTor
    September 14th, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

    How is it a “violation of US laws” for them to not “abide by their TOS”?

  27. Prokofy
    September 15th, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

    I have this happen to me all the time. There are some sort of griefers with bot nets or automated accounts on scripts somehow who are able to barrage me with porn star followers and sometimes grotesque porn pictures in the avatars any time I criticize Anonymous or Occupy or WikiLeaks. So obviously the porn-bots are associated with those groups. There are too many to block. I try abuse reporting them, and sometimes the accounts are removed, but there never is a systematic Twitter dev response to really get to the root of this problem. Likely because they tacitly support Occupy, Anonymous, etc, — or at least their hacker devs do even if the executives don’t — and so they use that as a way to keep Twitter the “progressive” tool they want it to be.

    Each week, when I look on the Qwitter reports, I always see numerous accounts following me that “left Twitter or were removed by Twitter,” i.e. accounts that other people must have reported and which were banned for spam. This is not a random problem; it is directed against speech that hackers don’t like and Twitter devs don’t like.

  28. FMJRA 2.0: Caffeine Zombie : The Other McCain
    September 15th, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

    […] Crime Is a People Problem: Why @Twitter Must Prosecute Fake Account Makers […]