Twitter spammers: Clickbank/Keynetics affiliates14 Jul 2008
I’ve been experimenting with Twitter a couple of times, and one of the results, the FM Brussel Live playlist twitter bot, seems to be rather popular. I get a couple of subscriptions per day. But recently they’re almost all of the form [name of girl][number of 2 – 4 digits]. This is what they look like:
Rather suspicious, right? So I started checking some of them out:
Most of them were similar: very few updates (1-2), a lot of ‘Following’ and hardly any ‘Followers’. And, most importantly, a link to the same website in their profile: ‘the6figureteam.com’. This has all the looks of a spammer at work. The ‘6 figure’ website is a promotion for a DIY kit to convert your car so it runs on water.
(in the small print you can read it’s actually water AND gas, not just water.)
The owner of the domain cannot be traced (Domains-by-proxy). But the site points to a redirection service, which is run by Clickbank:
Now we’re getting somewhere: Clickbank is a company from Boise, Idaho.
It also operates as Keynetics or Click Sales Inc. What they do is described in a lawsuit they got for ‘regular’ email spamming:
Apparently the company is quite big, they allow low-tech customers get money for referrals, which means a lot of people without scrupules will use it to let other suckers click on their links. Colleagues of theirs: Tradedoubler, CommissionJunction, Affili.net.
Who is to blame for the spam Twitter accounts? Clickbank just runs the technical redirection platform, Centemax (11K hits in Google all of them spam/landing pages) just set up a commision scheme for a ‘Run your car on water’ product, and the affiliates just used that scheme to try to make money. Capitalism at work, right?
SOLUTION: better detection
The best thing Twitter could do is enhance their detection:
- if a large number of new twitter accounts are created with the same URL in their profile: SPAM
- if they have almost no own updates, no followers, but they’re following 5000 other accounts: SPAM
- if the URL they refer to is a page full of ClickBank redirects: SPAM