Accidentally Creating an International News Story (and Twitter Spam)

Last week, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (@PressSec) held an open Q&A session on Twitter. He invited folks to tweet their questions, and he’d select a handful to answer. According to reports, more than 1,000 questions were submitted that morning. My question, “What are the President’s plans for relations with China is 2011?” was answered.

Within hours, the AFP posted a story “Gibbs Ups Yuan Pressure on China via Twitter.” The Chinese media jumped on the exchange, and my Twitter handle appeared in more than 35 news stories from the mainland. Russian and French press also covered the story.

But what was most interesting was the Twitter spam – all tweeting the same sentence and linking to the same story. They included:

@Johnnyd447
@workathomejohn
@twitcashflow
@tweeps4u
@eshanfaaz
@Twolet_Bot
@JRItwits
@myjolie
@dating_experts
@RealTweetTank
@AmericanDiners

So, who are these people? Why would the “Association for American Diners” tweet about Robert Gibbs and China? If they are, in fact, real people, it’s pretty clear that these folks are tweeting for cash. Sites like PaidPerTweet and SponsoredTweets offer Twitter users the ability to earn money for tweeting sponsored messages or links to websites. It causes me to wonder if AFP  is involved in using these services to drive more traffic to AFP articles online (if so, it’s a great way for a news organization to jeopardize its credibility). Thankfully, Twitter is taking aggressive action to reign in this Twitter spam. Last year, Twitter announced the following:

“It is critical that the core experience of real-time introductions and information is protected for the user and with an eye toward long-term success for all advertisers, users and the Twitter ecosystem.”

Which means that…

“For this reason, aside from Promoted Tweets, we will not allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API. We are updating our Terms of Service to articulate clearly what we mean by this statement, and we encourage you to read the updated API Terms of Service to be released shortly.”

The funny part is this – the only people following paid tweets by non-celebrities are other paid tweeters. Advertisers are being taken for a ride, and I imagine that many shady marketing professionals are reporting false numbers to their clients based on these services.

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