Hands up, everyone who has a Twitter Account!
Now, put your hand down again, if you have ever used Twitter to plug your line of work. (Be honest!)
Lastly, put your hand down if you have NOT read all the rules. (Again, be honest.)
Obviously this is a hypothetical scenario but my guess is, if you were to put these questions to a thousand Twitter users, by the time you had finished there would be very few hands remaining. Unfortunately, according to the rules of Twitter, this would mean you had a room full of spammers.
Before we go any further I should state that I did use Twitter until a few days ago when my account was suspended for spamming. I opened it to be greeted with this message;
This account is currently suspended and is being investigated due to strange activity. If we have suspended your account mistakenly, please let us know. See Suspended Accounts for more information.
Assuming this to be an easily fixable error, I looked into it further until I came to this message;
Your account was suspended for cross-posting duplicate tweets across multiple accounts, a violation of our terms of service and the Twitter Rules that we take very seriously. Your account will remain suspended for a minimum of one week; you may petition for reinstatement on or after August 17, 2009.
An obvious and blatant spamming tactic on my part, you may think, but the simple truth is; I only ever had one account. As frustrating as this situation may be for me, personally, it is nothing compared to the frustrations of Twitter, itself.
I have to admit that, according to the rules of twitter (which I have now read), I was not whiter than white when using it. In my short time as an account holder I came to the conclusion that most users (the ones that I was interested in following, at least) were tweeting, either from or about their work, personally posting links and pictures on their page that they believed their followers would be interested in. I followed suit believing this to be a good use of twitter as generally speaking, our work is what people would be most interested in. If Stephen Fry, for example, were to talk about the weather or the lovely cup of tea he was drinking (being extra careful not to mention the company who manufactured it) who would be interested? We want to know about his work because that is what is interesting about him. As for the rest of us mortals, because our jobs may not be as interesting to most as Mr. Frys, we look for people in a similar line of work to ourselves to banter with and share information. If we are not to discuss what we do, how are we to find these people?
This could prove a difficult area for Twitter to police. Once you have read the rules on spamming, in particular, you realize that, if all of them were to be upheld to the letter, they would have very few users left indeed.
There is talk of Twitter Business, a service that will allow people to advertize what they do without fear of persecution. But will anyone use this as a social network? More likely, people will only use it if they are looking for a specific service. So, a search engine, then, which only allows the advertiser 140 characters to explain what they do in order to sell their wares. This will leave the advertiser with only one real option; to put up links to somewhere else where he can go into more detail about his product or service. The links would, more than likely, be to a website... Which has to beg the question; Why not cut out the middle man and just use a search engine instead?
This is probably the conclusion most people (and most spammers, for that matter) will come to once the hype dies down a little so lets hope that it is not the way Twitter plans to monetize itself or it will probably have a lot of disappointed paying advertisers on its hands.
So, if Twitter Business doesnt seem likely to be viable in the long term, we are left with, plain old, Twitter; a social network where people are not allowed to publicize what they do for fear of being suspended.
It does go without saying that none of us enjoy receiving spam and that Twitter has to do something to prevent it, lest people will stop using the service. But, if it is to be trusted by its users, it cannot be suspending them for cross posting duplicate tweets across multiple accounts without first checking that these users are actually guilty of the infringement. If they continue to do so then the current suspension policy will ultimately achieve the opposite of its objective.
Though my Twitter account has now been reinstated, I now cannot escape the feeling that trying to rebuild my social network would be, at best, humiliating and at worst, just pointless, knowing, as I do, that Twitter could close it at any moment due to circumstances that are neither my fault nor within my control (if they actually exist in the first place). And so it is for these reasons, I will probably not use my account as much as used to and would certainly not have opened a new one had the original not been reinstated as I (and, I suspect, my erstwhile followers) would have seen this as an admission of guilt.
Much more importantly for Twitter, however; if I were a dyed-in-the-wool spammer, do you think the suspension of one account would offend so badly as to deter me from opening new ones? I would imagine that a real spammer would be back the very day after his first suspension with a virulent vengeance.
In short; the wrongfully convicted may never return whilst the genuine spammers will simply grow two new heads for each one that is severed.