Are You Locked Out Of Twitter?I added this post on one of my other blogs today, but thought it would also be of interest to my regular readers on The Vandal, to understand what Twitter is doing to dissuade following.

In recent months, many Twitter users have been locked out of their Twitter accounts on a regular basis. When a Twitter account is locked, it cannot send Tweets or follow new users.

For the many authors who use Twitter as one of their main book promotional platforms, and as a traffic driver to book links and blog posts, this new procedure will have a serious negative affect on their ability to attract new followers and hence, traffic. So what is happening?

There is a blue warning noticed on a user’s ‘home’ screen on Twitter when an account is locked by Twitter, but as far as I can gather, this only appears on the desktop version of Twitter, so mobile users will not see the warning and be unaware that their account has been blocked.

Twitter lock warning

The following email from Twitter advising of a locked account is usually the primary way of discovering that your account has been locked.

“For security purposes, your Twitter account has been locked.

We believe your account @username might be compromised by a user or service not associated with Twitter. To secure your account and continue safely using Twitter, change your password now.”

This has confused many Twitter users though, as quite often, the warning email gets lost in their junk mail and they do not see the email that Twitter sends to notify of an account being locked. This can happen because the email address that was used to set up a Twitter account may not be a user’s normal day-to-day email account.

However, to unlock an account, this email address is important as it needs to be used to access Twitter’s unlock link. Once Twitter’s instructions are followed, an account is unlocked immediately.

While it is easy to understand how to unlock a Twitter account, it is much harder to understand why Twitter is doing it. I have used Twitter for more than five years, and this new locking procedure only started occurring during the last few months and as far as I can attest, has nothing to do with 3rd party apps as Twitter mention. My numerous support requests to Twitter have gone unanswered, and the only sensible explanation I have seen was posted very recently on Manage Flitter, which is a Twitter service provider. Its blog post on this subject states:

“Twitter has started temporarily locking accounts for a number of reasons;

  • strange login activity (high numbers of logins, particularly from different locations)
  • performing aggressive following/unfollowing
  • sending suspicious Tweets
  • being reported for spam by other Twitter users

If your account is locked you will receive an email from Twitter titled “For security purposes, your Twitter account has been locked” and when you login to Twitter you will receive a message saying  “For security purposes, your Twitter account has been locked. Because we detected unusual activity, we locked your account to keep it safe. Go to the email associated with your Twitter account to unlock it.”

When your account is locked you will not be able to follow new people, or send any Tweets from your locked account. If your account is locked you can go to https://twitter.com/account/resend_password to request a new password. Once you reset your password (you can also set it back to the same password you originally used) your account will be unlocked.

Twitter has introduced locking primarily to slow down people using blackhat tools to perform actions against Twitter’s Terms of Service. However, we are noticing that some legitimate users are repeatedly finding their accounts are being locked and are having to reset their password each day.”

While three of these reasons are logical, it is the aggressive following and unfollowing that is impossible to fathom because it is immeasurable, and in most cases this is the cause of a locked account. Twitter has their famous technical limits, and one of them is that no user can follow more than 1,000 users per day. Yet there is no stated limit to how many unfollows can be performed per day. And what is aggressive? I have an account with over 80,000 followers, yet I am locked almost instantly for following around 100 users. I have tried to intentionally have my account locked by unfollowing as many as 500 inactive accounts and those who have not followed back in months, yet this didn’t cause my account to be locked.

My conclusion, after months of trying to understand this new Twitter policy is that they are now actively, and aggressively, discouraging following, which since the early days of Twitter has been the standard method of gaining followers. It appears to me that even following in small numbers in relation to the size of your account is being firmly discouraged.

So what does this mean for authors trying to build a reasonable sized platform on Twitter? It will be difficult, and very slow progress. For those of us who have been on Twitter for a long time, it will be just as difficult to increase our platforms from here on in.

As with all things Internet, change is the only constant, so we will all just have to adapt to this new change.

Well, if there has been a change that is, because as is so infuriatingly typical of Twitter, they cannot simply be open with their users, and tell them that they have changed their rules. But believe me, they have.

 

Are You Being Locked Out Of Twitter?
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