How does Twitter know?

Pito Salas
Jul 31, 2015 · 2 min read

So this starts with the fact that I was, for absolutely unknown reasons, blocked from following Marc Andreessen on Twitter, known as @pmarca.

After wondering what I had done to offend him, and many months, I thought, what if I just create another twitter account? That should be easy enough, right? So that’s what I did.

I used my work email and a new twitter handle (@_pitosalas.) This turns out also to be interesting because I got a taste of the new Twitter on-boarding process. It was very interesting in several ways:

First: It asked me whether my country was “Netherlands”. Why should it? My computer is in New Hampshire, my phone number is in the 617 area code (Massachusetts), and I have not given an email. Well it turns out that I have a Dutch passport. Hmm.

Next I am asked to pick one or more topics of interest. Lookie : some of the topics are written in Dutch. I actually don’t pick any of them. I assume I will get a fully innocent virginal Twitter account.

But no: instead I get a list of suggested people to follow, all of whom I know! It’s not obvious to me how twitter connected those dots. Other than using the same computer, and having a phone number that matches another account, I don’t see the connection.

Finally: I come to my actual purpose, and I try following @pmarca. No problem, I join his other 374,000 followers. Still doesn’t explain why my actual account is blocked.

So I don’t follow anyone else. I don’t tweet. I just wait.

Within hours several people I know are following me! Now how was that connection made?

I am not ascribing any nefarious behavior to Twitter. More power to them to make the system look friendly to new members. But I gotta wonder: How do they do it?

Pito Salas

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