City hashtag succumbs to “porn bots”

0

A quick search of the St. Albert hashtag on Twitter has been yielding some X-rated results.

The hashtag is used to categorize posts about everything from job openings to delicious looking poutine in St. Albert.

But over the last month, #StAlbert has been plagued with pornographic images and tweets soliciting sex via chat room or webcam.

These tweets are a form of online spam known as “porn bots”, where an automated program posts links to pornographic websites and explicit images. This type of spam can inundate any hashtag, including one used for a conference, a type of food, or even a city.

“For all intents and purposes, it has rendered the hashtag unusable, as opening it up is now a risky endeavour given the content and what might appear on your phone or computer,” says city councillor Tim Osborne.

Osborne has been vigilant about reporting the spam and spam accounts to the social media platform.

“I think it’s important that people continue to report the abusive content as spam and hopefully Twitter will eventually deal with the issue,” he says.

Osborne and St. Albert business owner Steve Stone have suggested using the hashtags #T8N and #clnipstalbert, respectively, until the spam problem is resolved.

City councillor Cathy Heron has also voiced her concern over the hashtag spam. In a tweet dated July 20, she wrote: “I’m so tired of porn that has invaded our communities hashtag. It used to be a great part off my day to visit #stalbert @twitter @Support.”

A statement from Twitter regarding city and community hashtag spam was not available by press time.

According to Twitter’s media policy, posts cannot be used in the furtherance of illegal activity and graphic content including pornography, excessive violence or medical procedures may not be used in profile, header or background images.

Twitter users can report violations, which will be then reviewed to determine if the media must be removed or requires a warning message in order to comply with the company’s media policies.

Users can also change their account settings to control whether or not they see “sensitive media” in addition to muting and blocking other users or spam accounts.

Unlike Twitter, Instagram has in specific cases, temporarily disabled hashtags or hashtag searches, when there have been issues with spamming. The photo-sharing app has had to battle an influx of pornographic content uploaded by users and bots, also known as “instaporn.”

Conrad Bitangcol is a realtor with RE/MAX in St. Albert. He is an avid social media user and amateur vlogger (video blogger), with a following of more than 3,400 on Twitter and 5,700 on Instagram.

Recent hashtag spam has not impacted the approach he takes with his social media strategy.

“There will always be ‘Internet trolls’ lurking and with the vast number of Twitter users it would be almost next to impossible to police the content. Since the hashtag cannot be owned there’s always this risk,” he says.

Since hashtags are user-generated, there are few ways around hashtag spam, says Ashley Sexsmith, owner of the Edmonton-based digital marketing and consulting company Chatty Girl Media.

Report spam and don’t be afraid to block users – not just the spam accounts, she advises.

“When we work with clients, if there is anyone that follows us that we don’t want to be associated with, we block them. You don’t have to follow everybody back that follows you.”

Share.

About Author

St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.