Cleavage (or, how Twitter spammers get the attention of men)

Last October, I noted on Twitter that an unusual (I mean highly unusual) number of spammers on Twitter used an avatar photo of a woman. But not just any woman. In addition, many spammers seemed to use a photo of a woman specifically with cleavage showing.

Since I have been doing some research on criminal domains that involves a fair amount of REST querying anyway, it didn’t take much work for me to build a query engine where before reporting them for spam, I could log these accounts to keep record of them and analyze later. So, since early November until last week, I have cataloged every Twitter account that either 1) directly spammed me, 2) was a spammer that autofollowed me (even if it didn’t interact with me other than that), or 3) that I saw when searching for a specific topic (the Tweet stream for the DLD conference last week in particular became infested with two different “strains” of spammers.

What I did then was use Twitter’s REST API to pull down the profile XML for each account as close to the moment I interacted with them as possible, while also pulling down their full-size and normalized Twitter avatar pictures.

Without further adieu, here are the results:

  1. Total potential spammers cataloged: 260 (I believe I’ve found at least 3 that I would consider false positives, looking at them again)
  2. Spammers using the default profile background image: 136 (52.3%)
  3. Spammers using the default “egg” avatar: 98 (37.7%)
  4. Spammers using an avatar with a woman in it: 148 (56.9%)
  5. Spammers using an avatar showing cleavage: 71 (27.3%)
  6. Percentage of female avatars with cleavage showing: 47.9%
  7. Spammers with avatars that aren’t default or female: 14 (5.4%)
  8. Maximum number of times seeing the same, non-default avatar: 3
  9. Number of times encountering accounts with same, non-default avatar: 3

There were 32 accounts that I would describe as “lewd” (potentially arguably, anyway NSFW things you might be uncomfortable if your boss saw if they stepped in to your office), and 11 avatars which had not one, but two women in them (often falling into that same lewd category).

There are a few other interesting points that I may provide in time, but for now I’ll be handing over to Twitter so they can, if they elect to, take some corrective action on them (without me schooling spammers on how to avoid getting their accounts blocked).


  1. For what it’s worth, in my experience most of the active spammers I’ve had have the default egg and don’t follow me. The scantily-clad “I like to f*ck” girls never get around to tweeting at me because they autofollow and then I immediately block and report them. But I haven’t done any kind of empirical analysis.

  2. […] three used names and pictures of women, none of them used gratuitous cleavage (a tactic I’ve mentioned before that spammers often use, but can make them easily smacked down as […]