A Trick For Stopping Event Hashtag Spam

Have you ever been following the hashtag of an event or conference on Twitter that has become popular – maybe even trended – for it to suddenly become inundated with irrelevant tweets like this?

#BrightonSEO (marked) screenshot

This happened at BrightonSEO and its #BrightonSEO hashtag, which I attended a few weeks ago. According to a few attendees, the event’s hashtag trended, possibly even on a national scale (can anyone confirm?). Eventually, probably as a result of the trending and the hashtag’s popularity, the spam started trickling in, with the hashtag getting hit by spammers now and again throughout the day. At one point, I think there might’ve actually been more spam tweets than normal/genuine tweets. Obviously it was ruining the hashtag, making it harder to read and follow with so much useless noise jumping in and interfering.

The perfect solution

However I noticed a pattern with the tweets and therefore a fix. All of the spam tweets used the same URL shortener: 00ey. It’s certainly not a popular URL shortener – I’d personally never seen it before – and so I realised that there was a way to follow the hashtag without the spam but also without risking missing out on or eliminating anyone else’s tweets, i.e. those of the actual attendees.

Instead of doing a search/column for #BrightonSEO, I tried #BrightonSEO -00ey. The difference can be seen below:

[#BrightonSEO] & [#BrightonSEO -00ey] screenshot(Click to enlarge)

Spam gone, proper tweets kept.

I presented it to the other conference-goers via the hashtag, getting a few mentions of thanks and a couple of RTs for my troubles, which is always nice!

The not-so-perfect solution

Hash symbol imageSometimes you might not get so lucky, and the spammers might use a more common URL shortener. This happened with #OiConf and #smwb2b, which took place more recently. I didn’t attend the events, but I saw people complaining about the spam that the respective hashtags were receiving. Unfortunately, in both cases, the spammers were using bit.ly instead of 00.ey.

However, it was still possible to do a fix, this time with [#OiConf -bit.ly] and [#smwb2b -bit.ly] respectively, but this obviously would’ve meant that if anyone else used a bit.ly link then their tweets wouldn’t show up, either. That said, in my experience, most people tweeting at a conference aren’t necessarily always also tweeting links (they might just be tweeting things that the speakers have said), so you might only lose out on <10% of relevant, non-spam tweets.

Again, I presented them to the attendees via the hashtag, receiving thanks and RTs in doing so. You can see the difference between [#OiConf] and [#OiConf -bit.ly] here.

Help your fellow attendees

So the next time you’re at an event and the spam tweets start flooding in, look for a pattern. If they all contain the same URL shortener, including it in the search criteria with a minus in front of it will exclude any tweets containing it.

Try it out, and if it works, be sure to tell the other attendees! They’ll love you for it – seriously!

[# image credit: Tom Magliery]


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  • James Thomas

    October 17, 2012 at 11:53 am Reply

    As was pointed out at #OiConf, it’s worth noting that the official Twitter apps do a much better job of filtering out hashtag spam (I saw almost none, apart from in other’s screenshots), so for devotees of third-party apps it might be simpler to temporarily make the switch for the duration of the conference. As you say, conference attendees are far less likely to be sharing links so the only thing they’d really lose would be their preferred interface.

    • Steve

      October 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm Reply

      Thanks for the comment, James! Really? That’s cool – I had no idea! I’ll have to try that out the next time it happens. I prefer the third-party apps over the official Twitter app, but then again I like spam even less, hehe!

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