Twitter's well-documented spam problem is creeping into the hashtag section, making it difficult for the kind of people who take their hashtags the most seriously: denizens of the endless social media conferences. In just the last two days we've seen two twitter hashtags, at two separate tech conferences, overwhelmed by spam bots, one from The Guardian's Activate NYC conference and another from Wired's Business Conference.
The way the hashtag works makes it particularly susceptible to spam. Spam bots are often triggered to a specific word or phrase, which is exactly what a hashtag is. Plus, a hashtag gathers a group of eyes in one spot, making it an even more attractive target for spam bots. But, beyond these more traditional forms of spam-bot invasions, the hashtag draws other types of spam, such as those trying to co-opt it for their own commentary, "ironically." And, really if you think about it hard enough, the hashtag is inherently its own form of spam. Twitter hashtag spam comes in at least four forms, leading us to question the value of the hashtag altogether.
Hashtag Spam Type 1: Porn Bots
This is your regular old, run of the mill spam. Some automated bot discovers a tag and then sends out some spammy tweets to the group. That's what happened with our conferences above. And robots also attacked the #newtsnext tag. This is particularly frustrating for those deeply involved in a hashtag, as it gets in the way of the actual discussion of things.
This is probably the most problematic of the hashtag spam-types, as an accidental click could compromise a Twitter account. It's also annoying for people who really want to enjoy the hashtag.