The Twitter Rules you may not realise you’ve been breaking.

Rules — if you don’t know them then how do you know you’re breaking them? Here are some highlights of the Twitter Rules that you may not realise you’ve been breaking!

Twitter Rules and Best Practices

The internet is host to many products and services and Twitter, like all the other internet companies, try to make sure its users adhere to certain rules and regulations. How often do you click ‘yes’ when agreeing to Terms and Conditions on an internet product without having read any of it? While my trust is in the product and name of the company, and this might override my decision to read ToCs, I should consider my own conduct too.

Twitter have an easy to follow page, The Twitter Rules, on their Help Centre website, so it’s worth taking a quick look if you haven’t done so already since it could save you a bit of stress when you are faced with, like I was, a constant message telling me I am blocked from following any more users at this time. I didn’t understand what was going on and it detracted from my enjoyment of using Twitter.

I’ve highlighted a few interesting official Twitter rules here, but still encourage you to take a look at the page since they are subject to updates and revisions.

*Please note: the Twitter Rules are part of their Terms of Service, which you must agree to before opening an account.*

Content — There is some limitation to the type of content one can post, for mostly legal reasons, things like violent outbursts and threats against others are not allowed, not that they would be condoned in most life situations anyway. Graphic or pornographic or violent picture or video content is also not allowed — although there is a hefty amount present on Twitter, you must realise that it’s against the Twitter Rules.

Publishing private information of another person is not allowed without their consent, this includes emails, postal addresses, telephone numbers, identity numbers, as well as intimate photos or videos.

Deception — The impersonation of someone or a company with the intent to mislead others is not allowed, and Twitter can reclaim usernames on behalf of companies or people when they have been taken. In relation to this, taking up usernames to buy or sell is not allowed and comes under Abuse.

Abuse and disruptive behaviour — Owning multiple accounts for the same use is deemed a form of disruptive behaviour since one might, and probably will, use them all to post the same material all the time. Also, sending messages to a single user from multiple accounts is also deemed abusive. Any violation of these rules could result in suspension of all accounts.

Username Squatting — This is a term I was unaware of until I wrote this section; it’s when an account is created just to take a username, but this can also be applied to accounts that are inactive for more than six months. Twitter reserve the right to take action against Username Squatters but do take into consideration a few things first like, how many accounts were created with similar usernames and the purpose of creating any of the accounts, as well as third-party maintenance (using proxy programs to maintain activity).

Invitation Spam — This is when you have your address book pillaged and everyone in it is invited to join X, and often it looks like a personal message from you. It can be a useful tool especially for social networks but it is not allowed on Twitter, so if you’re a software or app developer, please beware.

Copyright — Twitter’s policy is pretty standard and have guidelines for copyright procedures in Section 9 ‘Copyright Policy’ of their Terms of Service user agreement contract. Twitter will exercise the right to remove content they believe to infringe on Copyright and terminate accounts that repeatedly infringe on Copyrighted material.

Twitter Badges — ‘Promoted’ or ‘Verified’ Twitter badges are provided by Twitter only and are not be used without their consent and so the account could be suspended if used in header photos or profile pictures without official consent.

The official Twitter account verified with a little ripple-edged blue badge and with central white tick

Automated actions — There are a huge amount of applications and software programs that offer services to Twitter users to sort out the metaphorical wheat from the chaff, so it’s worth realising that if you’re using a third party application you might be in violation of Twitter’s Automation Rules and Best Practices. Automated bulk unfollowing and following is not permitted and any user or application engaging in this practice will be suspended. Rest assured there are verified apps out there that can help you in Twitter Housekeeping, just make sure they are kosher by finding out if they’re verified by Twitter before using them.

Using block as a means to unfollow — is not allowed.

Spam — Is a hugely important facet of the Terms of Service and the Twitter Rules, which is why I left it ’til last since there are many ways in which behaviour can constitute as spamming other users and can take a little more space to explain.

Spam is, basically, ‘Irrelevant, annoying, unsolicited and sometimes dangerous tweets or behaviour’, and in the Twitter Rules — you may not use Twitter for the purpose of spamming anyone. So let’s find out more what spamming is:

*This is not an exhaustive list, so take a look at Twitter Rules page for more*

>Following and unfollowing accounts: Or ‘Follow Churn’; following an account then re-following. I confess to having done this for a short time because I wanted to see if I could increase my following and raise attention of those who I wanted to follow me back but I had no idea that it was a form of spam behaviour and is definitely not allowed. Luckily I was not reported or banned, however, having done this I have experienced a definite negative effect on my account since I am unable to follow as many people as I used to on my personal account, which is annoying since I can’t follow back as many people.

>Misuse of the Hashtag: Over-use of hashtags and using unrelated hashtags on a tweet can be seen as spam since it could be piggybacking on ‘trending’ or popular topics.

>Misuse of @replies and mentions: Sending out large numbers or tweets filled with @replies and mentions — either duplicated or unsolicited is a no no.

>Unrelated Lists of users: Creating lists of unrelated users is spam since it’s attention grabbing, un-useful and irrelevant.

>Creating false or misleading content: Tweeting lies or misleading information to get attention, it’s just plain annoying.

>Aggressively (and randomly) retweeting, favouriting and following: This is pretty straightforward to understand — favouriting tweets and retweeting lots of stuff is bombarding people with content and notifications and is thus extremely annoying.

>Using or Promoting third-party (proxy) services to gain followers: There is a nice article on Twitter’s help page (click here) about these third party application where you pay to get more followers, but it’s important that you do not engage in this practice since you are giving control of your account to a third party and when they do add followers to your account these new followers are not even in use (bot or abandoned accounts) so it’s a pretty useless venture since they’ll never read your tweets and will probably end up being removed anyway because they’re inactive.

Third party applications may also be likely to violate Twitter’s Terms of Service via phishing scams and fraud, which is not usual, and could then lead to your account being suspended or deleted.

(An excerpt from the upcoming book, Twitter for Academics)

About Dr Jojo Scoble

Freelance Science Communicator. Microbiology PhD Oxon. Fiction Writer. Social Media dilettante. Ideas Factory.
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