When it first got going, I was one of the "What's the point of Twitter?" people, even though I joined in 2008. But, gradually, I found it more interesting, and, since late 2012, have been an avid participant.
I like real followers. I regularly purge bots and inactive followers except for a few friends/relatives who like to read but not participate.
I am delighted that Twitter is finally starting to deal with its bot problems. On 2/20/2018, they started to delete accounts from bot farms. Trump is rumored to have lost about 2 million bot followers overnight, and the grief the far right is expressing over losing their bots is very funny. Thank-you, Twitter!!
There aren't reliable tools for finding bots unless you have their IP addresses. There are some tools you can use once or twice but then demand payments. Twitter was getting better at identifying/purging certain kinds of commercial-only accounts. For example, I rarely see Twitter accounts with these kind of profiles anymore:
I do not intend to share pic on Twitter however you can add my snapchat: XXXX so I am able to send you my pictures etc.or
Goт мy ғιrѕт oғғer тodαy ғroм 100ĸғollowerѕ INC, GET 10,000 Twιттer Followerѕ ғor $39, αт http://bit.ly/XXXXXXX(though this kind of bot is becoming more common again in 2018)
I now report profiles like those to Twitter as spam accounts before I block them. If you add me to a list, I block you. I'm not the kind to follow back everyone. I don't follow and I always block any of the following kinds of accounts:
- Accounts that are sexist, racist, religiously fanatical, gun-loving, #RWNJ (RightWingNutJob), #GamerGate (if you don't know about this, you really don't want to know about this), pro-puppy (ditto), political bots (people obviously only trying to make trouble).
- Any account with a gun in their profile or background picture or that posts obscene pictures or disrespectful graphics of people, with the exception of Trump who's gone out of his way to earn our disrespect.
- Commercial-only accounts (except for those related to interesting books, movies, restaurants or places to visit), or accounts by individuals that seem only to link to "special deals." Some of these individual accounts have perfectly-reasonable bios, but when you read the tweets, it's clear these "individuals" have nothing real to say.
- Any profile with the word "expert" in it (and most with the word "marketing" in it), though I make an exception if the person posts interesting tweets (most self-proclaimed experts do not).
- Accounts with an "egg" icon, a fish-face photo, a porn-like photo or no biographical description. I want to know something about the people I'm following. If you can't say something about yourself or upload a photo, how do I know you're not just a bot? Twitter should be interactive - why should we interact? Occasionally, I do follow egg/no bio accounts when they've made some interesting tweets.
- Trolls (and, yes, sometimes even accounts I'd agree with on paper are trolls who are only there to stir things up).
- Any tweet that's just a link gets its account blocked and reported because often these are links to viruses.
- People I know IRL and would rather not engage with on Twitter. It's a free country.
- People who use "tools" that spam people with direct messages (which are an annoying "feature" of Twitter) like http://www.twitterautofollowback.com/. Anyone dumb enough to use tools that spam aren't people I want to deal with. I generally block anyone who DMs me or who primarily posts how many people have followed/unfollowed them.
I also think demanding a follow back or visiting a link is silly. I appreciate follow backs but don't demand them. I might be too outspoken for many and that's fine.
Basically, when I run into people I'd rather not follow, I unfollow them and sometimes I block them and move on. If they're overly abusive, commercial, or pornographic, I also report them to Twitter.
I do not read DMs. They are a horrific waste of time. With only a few exceptions, they've been spam from a Twitter app or harassment.
I'm glad there are now tools to make blocking abuse accounts much easier. If you're interested in learning more about blocking sock puppets, visit BlockTogether. You can create block lists and share them if you'd like to. If you got ensnared in the whole #GamerGate mess, follow GGAutoBlocker on Twitter.
I had high hopes for botcheck.me, but it really isn't reliable yet. Damn! At least it looks like Twitter itself is finally killing bot accounts, which is about time. Too bad they didn't do it two years ago in early 2016. That might have made a difference in the election.