Twitter potentially has something like over 500 million registered users. By Twitter’s count in March, it has 140 million active users — an active user being somebody who actually logs in to Twitter (but does not necessarily tweet). The number of active users is undoubtedly significantly higher by now, probably at least 160 million or so, but there is nonetheless a huge gulf between the number of registered Twitter accounts and the number of people who actually log in and use Twitter on a regular basis. And it looks like Twitter’s trying to change that. By asking you to spam your friends who haven’t logged in to Twitter in a while.
When a fellow BuzzFeed reporter logged onto Twitter, he saw the above message, instructing him to “Bring Rick Perry Facts back to Twitter.” When he clicked the “Compose a Tweet” button, the tweet below was automatically generated — a short message designed to get @rickperryfacts to log back into Twitter by triggering an @reply notification.
Encouraging occasional users to log into Twitter more frequently is something that Twitter’s been concerned with for a while. (Regardless of whether reports that Instagram now has more mobile engagement than Twitter are true.) It launched an email digest that in May that rounded up tweets and stories a user might’ve missed; every email ends with the line, “Don’t miss out. Stay up to date on what’s happening.” Next to it is a link that takes users directly to a Twitter login screen. Twitter really, really wants you to log on.
A Twitter DM phishing attack.
But telling its users to prod their friends with a robot-generated tweet to log on to Twitter feels gross and desperate; and it’s just a little too similar to direct-message phishing attacks that tricked people into clicking on sketchy links by with messages like “your facial express here is priceless [SKETCHLINK]!”
And without context, things can go horribly wrong, as it appears to be the case here — Twitter encouraged @noz to tweet at a friend who had apparently died.
Even if you’re one of the users that Twitter is bugging your friends to spam, there’s no way to feel comfortable with this. It’s hard to escape the sense that Twitter’s watching you, even when you’re not using it. And Twitter is supposed to be the uncreepy social network! But this is kee-ree-pee. Which probably isn’t going to make you want to log back on.
This is a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose-lose “feature.”
A Twitter spokesperson wouldn’t directly comment on the new “feature,” instead directing me to a blog post titled “innovate through experimentation.” Well, this is an experiment that should end, like, now.