The Twitter Quality Filter is an innocuous-looking selection in the Notifications tab of the site’s Settings suite. “Improves the quality of Tweets you’ll see”, it says. But that’s not all the Quality Filter does. What it actually does, is it shadowbans accounts that Twitter considers to be of low quality, within your personal space. That means when a “low quality” account follows you, you won’t see it in your followers list, and that could end up causing you problems.
Let’s say you’re followed by an account with views you find offensive. You want to block that account, right? Well, if you’ve left your Quality Filter in its default “on” state, and the offensive account does not meet Twitter’s quality threshold, you can’t block it, because you can’t see it in your Followers list.
Or let’s say you’re a creative user who writes jokes. And Mr “We do not own any of the content we post” (don’t get me started!) comes along and follows you. It’s a fairly safe bet that if he sees one of your tweets doing well he’s going to steal it. So you’re going to block him, aren’t you? Except you can’t, because once again, his account is invisible to you.
And worse, when you search your own work on Twitter to check if any of it is being stolen, any thieves considered by Twitter to have “low quality” accounts will fail to show in your search. So you won’t catch them. True, if they’re shadowbanned to every user who has the Quality Filter engaged, their reach is limited. But they can still be seen by all users who have the filter switched off, and that could be a significant number of impressions for the thief, on the back of your work. You want to be blocking thieves, bots and scrapers – not just letting Twitter pretend they’re not there.
Another reason why blocking bots and scrapers on sight is important, is that if you don’t, your Followers total will become increasingly skewed, and when Twitter has one of its bot purges, you’ll lose a noticeable chunk of your Followers in one go. That may not only demoralise you, but also reflect negatively on you in the eyes of other people. Remember also that if other people have their Quality Filter switched off, and yours is switched on, those other people can see all the undesirable followers in your list, and may draw conclusions about you based on that.
One of the worst things about allowing benign junk accounts to follow you is that they attract more junk accounts – some of which may be less benign. It’s like going on a suckers’ list. Many of these ‘marketers’ and pests copy-follow each other on follow4follow apps, so if you’re in the Friends list of one junk account, other junk accounts will jump on you too. Spammers attract spammers, porn bots attract porn bots… Before you know where you are you’ve amassed a hundred useless, embarrassing or nefarious followers, and at some point Twitter is going to bin a chunk of them in one fell swoop.
Another type of account that I’ve seen the Quality Filter semi-shadowban is the unpopular user. Poor followback ratio, no engagement on tweets, blocked too many times, and/or posting a type of content that may be reported for one reason or another. But not all of these accounts are bad, or of low quality. I’ve just found one that’s original and funny, but completely invisible when the Quality Filter is on. Some users write tongue-in-cheek bio text that gets taken seriously, and particularly if they have a default avatar or look too anonymous, a lot of people may end up blocking them. But I don’t want to miss out on the talent original humorists have simply because other users are in too much of a rush to recognise it as humour.
But one area where I’ve seen some benefit in leaving the Quality Filter switched on, is with scam accounts. Scam accounts can be extremely dangerous. They usually do get reported, but sometimes the people reporting those accounts will either report them for the wrong offence, or just block them, because it’s simply too complicated, long-winded or even personally embarrassing a process to submit the correct report.
The problem with all massive UGC sites is that in order to keep human labour down to realistic levels, reporting processes have to be based around multiple choice systems. Users can’t just call up a general-purpose message window, type in the problem, send it, and let a moderator sort it out. You may find yourself spending five minutes or more just trying to work out which of the multi-choice routes and sub-routes you should be taking, and a lot of people don’t have time for that. So rather than being suspended for fraud, many scam accounts get thrown into the “low quality” band because they’re widely blocked and reported for spam.
I’ve recently found a couple of pretty nasty scam accounts that were “low quality” shadowbanned. One was protected, and whilst the account looked suspicious, I had to search the guy’s mentions to see what sort of things he was up to. According to the accusations, he was an advance-payment scammer posing as a wealthy US Army veteran and primarily conning women.
But the Quality Filter doesn’t catch all scammers, or anywhere near. Some scammers have vast followings, and extremely high engagement, and have even fooled media influencers into endorsing them. If someone on Twitter is claiming to be giving away free money or goods, the reality is that a portion of the public are going to suck up to them, Reply to them, Like them, Retweet them, and more or less do anything else they ask. Especially if the scammer has a shill system set up. So we can’t really say it’s good that scam accounts often get quality filtered. We have to say it’s bad that scam accounts appear to anyone at all.
Twitter, for its part, should be banning scammers, and it would really not be difficult for them to auto-flag scam activity. I mean, they can auto-flag a picture that appears to include a female breast, but not an account that has hundreds of scammer accusations in its mentions and a never-ending sprawl of cash app links in its DMs? Come on guys.
So my recommendation would be…
- Never give money, personal information, or your bank details, to anyone who approaches you via Twitter, and don’t respond to, or click links in, DMs from anyone you don’t know. That’s your scam protection.
- Switch your Quality Filter OFF, and manage your own list of Followers.