Twitter Bans Automated And Bulk Following In Controversial TOS Update

Yesterday Twitter published changes that have been made to their Developer Rules Of The Road, which outlines best policies, practices and philosophy for third party development and innovation on the Twitter platform.

One very notable update: automated following or bulk following through third-party apps is now prohibited.

Auto-following and the entire “I follow back” brigade has, in this author’s opinion, always been a bad idea and rarely leads to an engaged and relevant Twitter network, but lots of folks still like to do it. Indeed, many feel that reciprocal following is the polite way to use Twitter, and employ third party apps to take care of this for them. Hence, this new update, if enforced by Twitter – and they usually are – is going to ruffle a lot of feathers.

Twitter developer Sylvain Carle has outlined the changes in his blog post, which also includes some relaxation on how developers can display tweets in their apps.

Today we are publishing some changes for our Developer Rules of the Road and Developer Display Requirements. The main goal behind these changes is to better clarify our guidelines for using our API and other platform tools, based on your feedback and comments.

For example: we relaxed some display requirements around author’s name, timestamps and permalinks; we clarified that the “no commingling” term doesn’t apply to manually curated streams; and, we now require developers to disclose their privacy policies before people download, install or sign up for a service. We have also clarified some restrictions: hosting datasets of raw Tweets for download is prohibited, and automated following or bulk following is also prohibited.

When pushed, Carle clarified that Twitter is most concerned about aggressive following practices through apps, as per their terms, outlined below:

“Aggressive following is defined as indiscriminately following hundreds of accounts just to garner attention. However, following a few users if their accounts seem interesting is normal and is not considered aggressive.”

Personally I’m 100% behind this update as both auto-following and especially bulk following are, in my opinion, very good examples of the wrong way to “do” Twitter (if such a thing really exists). But I accept that for many users this is both normal and something that they actively use, so this is certainly going to be unpopular with a percentage of users.

Still, if Twitter can run with this momentum and also ban automated direct messages and work a lot harder on their spam filter to further tackle those pesky bots, this will all be a very proactive move forward. Right?

(Source: Twitter Developer blog.)