Why I Started @StopTrueTwit

TrueTwit is an extortion machine. Here’s why we’re campaigning for Twitter to shut it off.

If you’re on Twitter, and like following new people, maybe you’ve gotten one of these direct messages sent back to you:

(username) uses TrueTwit validation. To validate click here: http://…

If you clicked, you were sent to an external website and asked to type in a word (captcha) to prove you’re not a robot. The website is TrueTwit. It claims to be an application for Twitter that fights spam. According to TrueTwit, Twitter accounts are constantly at risk to have lots of “spambots” following them, so people should send all their followers to the TrueTwit website so they can fill out forms and prove they’re real humans.

But when you fill in the captcha, nothing really happens. Whether or not you type in the captcha you’re still following the person. Whether or not you type in the captcha they can still decide you’re cool (or not) and follow you back (or not). Twitter has its own good protection against spambots nowdays. Even if they didn’t, bots are certainly capable of typing in captchas. And spammers are certainly capable of joining the TrueTwit network so they can escape the captchas all together. So what’s it all about?

If you got a few of these messages, you’d get curious about why you had to fill out those captchas over and over. You’d wonder if TrueTwit could forever know that you are not a robot. TrueTwit says you can avoid the captchas if you register with them and join their network.

TrueTwit self-propagates, annoying new users into advertising for it. You can only avoid receiving DMs by agreeing to help send them.

But here’s what you’d find out: To join TrueTwit, you must also give TrueTwit access to your twitter account, so they can send all your new followers DMs to TrueTwit’s site asking them to “validate”.

Or, if you don’t want to send DMs, you can pay them $20.

There is no other way to opt out of TrueTwit DMs. You will get a validation request from every TrueTwit user you follow unless you become a user yourself.

Does that sound fishy? It did to me. The scheme reminds me of the old chain letters and email forwards. Or remember that horror movie, The Ring? Same idea: make someone else read TrueTwit DMs or else TrueTwit will never leave you alone.

You can complain to TrueTwit on Twitter (@GoTrueTwit) but be prepared for a snarky “no one cares” response. I mean that very literally.

I love twitter — my main account is @spacefem but I also run @etsytrades for people who like trading their crafts, and @wichitaswe for my local Society of Women Engineers to let people know about free technology events for kids. I love meeting new people on twitter, so I’m always clicking “follow” buttons.

I also like to reserve the use of Twitter’s direct message system for very important things. Twitter says that DMs are for one-on-one private conversations. So I hate seeing the system used to tell me to visit a website that really does nothing. Twitter just added multi-user DMs for group chats, but I’ve had to ignore almost all DMs I get because they’re used for so much spam.

TrueTwit might help you screen out your human followers… but not in the way you were hoping.

To see if anyone agreed with me, I searched twitter for “truetwit” and was shocked to find nearly every tweet was about how people hated it. And google results were even worse: bad reviews, articles about how TrueTwit is disrespectful to your Twitter followers, blog posts detailing how TrueTwit is a spam-driven pyramid scheme, forum questions from users just asking how to turn it off.

There was nothing thanking TrueTwit for a great service. No one appreciates it. They’re just annoyed into it.

TrueTwit, in return, constantly posts tweets that call their critics “follow farmers”, “pornhounds”, and “slutbots”. I don’t like TrueTwit, so I must be a slutbot? I thought I was a 34-year-old married mom from Kansas who tweets about arts and crafts. Does this sound like a company that we should trust for evaluating people?

So that’s why I launched @StopTrueTwit. I’m sad that TrueTwit has been able to annoy so many twitter users into signing up for their service and sending out all those DM spam messages to new followers. Some people don’t even know they’re doing it!

TrueTwit is running an extortion service: either pay us, become our spambot, or suffer annoying DMs every time you dare click “follow” on a potential new twitter friend.

They’re also a spam advertising service, constantly bragging about how much traffic their site gets. Sure, it gets traffic. They’ve gotten thousands of Twitter users to send out links a website where only TrueTwit gets ad revenue. Does that sound good for Twitter?

If TrueTwit has lured you in, visit http://twitter.com/settings/applications and see if TrueTwit is listed. Click the “revoke access” button to free yourself so they can’t use your account.

Revoke TrueTwit’s access from Settings > Apps

And please never click a link you get via DM to “validate”. Real people on Twitter can decide for themselves if you’re a real person. When you click those links, you’re just showing support for DM spam. My @StopTrueTwit campaign started small but mushroomed to over 1000 followers in just under three weeks. Every day we help TrueTwit lose a few more users, and prevent others from joining. The campaign has these goals:

1) Let people know that TrueTwit is really spam. If you don’t like it you are not alone.

2) Serve as a resource for people trying to get truetwit’s grabby teeth out of their account, with screenshots, Q&A, and quick tips for how to disable it.

3) Build up our list of good Twitter applications that actually do help you fight spam and manage large amounts of followers, but without hijacking your account to advertise themselves. Our list is here. Just further proof that TrueTwit isn’t offering anything good.

4) Get Twitter to add some functions that would help us out, like the ability to revoke 3rd party access from their mobile apps, or the ability to opt out of auto-DMs altogether.

5) Get the attention of Twitter and the API team to ask them to shut down the service altogether. @support has ignored me so far, but I hope that if the campaign gradually builds a following we’ll eventually get the attention of someone at Twitter to hear us out.

Let’s work together to free Twitter from DM extortionists, so it can really be the great place that we all love.

Important Tweets So Far

We are tweeting every day with new reasons for why TrueTwit is bad. Follow us @StopTrueTwit to join in. If you’re looking for particular items to retweet here are some good ones:

Ask Twitter to shut off TrueTwit

Screenshot: finding the app settings from Twitter.com to turn off TrueTwit (requires a desktop web browser)

Screenshot: turning off TrueTwit from a mobile device (requires Chrome or Opera — Safari and the Twitter app have no way to revoke 3rd party application access)

Ranked tweets at favstar.fm

More articles about why TrueTwit is bad

There are endless articles and posts by people who agree with me on TrueTwit — if you’d like me to add yours, tweet to @StopTrueTwit. Here are some favorites:

The Tragedy of TrueTwit by @Sean_Munger

Five Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Truetwit by @MelanieShebel

The Truth About TrueTwit Validation by @bradsknutson

How How TrueTwit Helps You Help It Make Money — And Waste A Ton Of Time by @MaryCLong

The Case Against TrueTwit by @Risdall

Do You Use True Twit Validation On Twitter? It Is Spam, Spam, Spam by @makobiscribe

TrueTwit Sucks — Let Me Tell You Why by @TakeActionWAHM

Why I Will Block You For Spam if I Receive A TrueTwit DM by @JLLicea

Why using TrueTwit makes you look like a True Twit by @dotsocialise