Twitter to Kill Auto-Follow-Backs and Bulk Following in New API

twitter prohibits auto or bulk following

twitter prohibits auto or bulk followingIn a bold move, Twitter has prohibited automated following and bulk following of other users in the new version of its API.

Previously you could use tools like Social Oomph to automatically follow-back anyone who followed you, or tools like Tweepi to follow/unfollow profiles in bulk (up to 200 at a time, with a limit of up to 1000 per day). Now Twitter has outlawed this practice in an update to its developer guidelines, along with hosting raw Tweets for download. Violators could have their Twitter accounts suspended! Twitter hasn’t yet gone as far as banning automated Direct Messages yet, but it doesn’t recommend the behavior either as it can be annoying to many users. Twitter did, however, relax some display requirements regarding how tweets can be incorporated into 3rd party apps, which appears to benefit curation tools like Storify.

Twitter Auto and Bulk Following Banned

twitter jailTwitter has long had an unwritten rule of reciprocation, where if someone followed you, you would follow them back, or vice versa. Being able to automatically reciprocate follows was nice, especially for social media managers juggling multiple accounts, but the resulting interaction was pretty disingenuous. Do you really want a bunch of people who never listen to you, or worse, robots, following you? Some folks like to play the numbers game and boast about their following numbers, but in the end the only thing that matters is who is really listening to you?

Twitter actually used to have an almost secret feature, never widely available to the public, that allowed users to automatically reciprocate whenever another user followed them. The feature could be enabled by sending a request to Twitter support, but Twitter ended up killing that function back in 2009.

At the time, Twitter CEO Biz Stone said:

We’re going to discontinue autofollow because this behavior sends the wrong message. Namely, it is unlikely that anyone can actually read tweets from thousands of accounts which makes this activity disingenuous.

The feature, however, lived on within the API, allowing third party apps to enable users to do these actions automatically. That is, until now. Perhaps Twitter is looking to increase engagement on the network and cut down on all the spam. Sylvian Carle, a developer advocate at Twitter, announced the most recent changes in a Twitter developer forum along with a breif explanation:

We believe these changes will help provide a better experience for everyone using Twitter. Be sure to read the actual documents and use those for final reference.

While this may be a tough pill for many social marketers and definitely spammers to swallow, this could bring back some much needed energy to Twitter. Now you know if someone followed you, it had to be for real manually, meaning you really did something to earn their attention!

Here is a list of updated Twitter documents developers and other interested parties can peruse:
Developer Rules of the Road
Developer Display Requirements
Automation rules and best practices

Have you been using any automated follow services? How do you think these changes will affect Twitter going forward? Could this be the end of using ‘Twitter management’ tools?

Daniel Zeevi

By Daniel Zeevi

Daniel is a social network architect, web developer, infographic designer, writer, speaker and founder of DashBurst. Full-time futurist and part-time content curator, always on the hunt for disruptive new technology, creative art and web humor.


  1. Very interesting. Am all for creating better engagement on twitter. So ill see how it go’s from now. Thanks for the post. Your daily reader. Anthony

  2. Thanks for pointing out this new Twitter rule. Auto following defeats the purpose of Twitter which is follow and build a following of members with common interests with whom you can engage. When someone follows me I always check their stream of tweets and their website. If they are authentic and offer valuable information then I will follow them back.

  3. The thing that pisses me off is Twitter screws with my following numbers, it automatically makes my followers unfollow me and gives me accounts I follow which I didn’t follow. It’s pretty much communism at times.

  4. Twitter is in a coma for the last 6-12 months. tweeps with no avatar and no bio are getting 100,000 to 300,000 fake followers a day unnoticed by Twitter Super genius geeks! Moreover, monitoring a 1000 following a day rule was broken by Kuwaiti twitterers and now is sold as a gig on fiverr for 5$. The most sacred code of a 1000 following a day limit on Twitter, which was greatly honored, is now a joke, and applicable only on innocent Twitter users who do not break the rules. Twitter is certainly going downward!

  5. It is all good. Personally, I think that they should get rid of the follow limit for us serious users. I can’t follow new tweeps at the moment due to this rule. I am following 4370 tweeps, but I only have 3968 followers. What to do?

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