How many spam accounts are following you on Twitter?

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Sometime last week, @YukoFinnegan923 started following me on Twitter. A few days later, she stopped following me. Y U NO FOLLOW ME YUKO? I just now tried to find the account and it no longer exists. Fortunately, I took a screenshot of @YukoFinnegan923 from “Minneapolis, MN” while that cutie still existed. I already knew it was a spam account. That bit.ly URL still works and goes to mycheapjobs.com. The website offers an assortment of Internet tomfoolery, such as backlinks to gin up you search-engine optimization (SEO) results, sites with 1,000 Google +1’s built-in, Twitter accounts with 500 followers at the ready, etc. I’ve long been fascinated by the ways people are tricked by the Internet. Recently, Newt Gingrich’s hapless presidential campaign was accused of buying twitter followers. Gingrich’s campaign denied it. The former Speaker of the House got his 1.3 million followers legitimately, his campaign said. Some reporters and pundits also scoffed. But then a new a people-search site, PeekYou, claimed it had researched Gingrich’s Twitter account and found only 8 percent of his followers were human. Douglas Main at Popular Mechanics wrote an excellent piece about trying to figure out what number of followers anybody has are spam or phony. I decided to do a little investigating of my Twitter followers. More

Tracing the origin of online photos with TinEye

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 Photo credit: Mohammed Abed

I saw this photo on Reddit with the only description being a one-word thread title: “War.” The top commenter in the thread said it was a picture of an Israeli white phosphorous attack. I wanted to find out for myself rather than take an Internet commenter’s word as the truth. I ran the photo through TinEye, the image search engine, and got 90 results. Thankfully, one of the sources was The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. The article highlighted compelling photography from 2009. This picture was taken in Gaza and was indeed documentation of an Israeli attack:

This photograph shows white phosphorous shells being fired by the Israeli military into a school building where civilians were sheltering in classrooms.

I mentioned TinEye in my previous post, but I wanted to highlight it here. No every search is successful. More often you will simply discover that a photo is all over the Internet. But in this example, I didn’t have to rely on an anonymous commenter. Also, I wasn’t checking the background because I had an interest in whether or not it involved Israel. I was curious because it is an incredible photograph.

How to avoid Internet regurgitation

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I complained yesterday about how the same “funny” images are endlessly recirculating on the Internet. Of course, that’s how a meme develops – the photo or whatever needs to be shared over and over. When something is reblogged on Tumblr hundreds or even thousands of times, that is part of what Tumblr is about and why it is so popular. Let me refine my argument by saying that we should strive for more variety. To that end I found the photo above on MlkShk (“milkshake”) yesterday and considered sharing it elsewhere. I’d never seen it before, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been posted and reblogged dozens of times. So I used a “reverse-image” search engine called TinEye. This is what I got back:

TinEye quickly found 120 instances were the photo was used already. Now here I am with 121. Fine, let everyone share and remix to their heart’s content. TinEye is a cool service that also can serve as a helpful analytical tool. Besides the website, there are TinEye browser plugins for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. A TinEye Android app is in beta testing. Oh yeah, I also complained about being disappointed with MlkShk, which is a new image-sharing site in beta testing. I spent more time on the site and found the quality of material was much better than I encountered during my first survey. I’m also getting a better feel for how the site and community work. Request an invite and give it a spin.