Today I was trying to send a direct message to a friend. Included was a bit.ly link to a page I needed him to see. For some reason, Twitter kept saying there was an error and cannot send the DM. After checking his page to make sure he was still following me and sending a couple test DMs successfully, I realized the problem was the bit.ly link.
I did a search and found that indeed – Twitter was blocking DMs with bit.ly links. They found many different links could not be sent via DMs. CBS.com was one of those who were blocked by Twitter DMs.
Of course, this is because of Twitter allowing n0n-followers to DM people. You have to opt-in to the option, but with this you can get messages from many different people.
The Twitter error Message Needs to Be Fixed
So direct messaging with a link could come back saying the person might not be following you. That could be totally confusing – especially if you know they are. I almost chalked it up as a twitter database error but decided to check and see if there was any changes.
The only advantage of allowing non-followers to DM is if your Twitter account is a corporate one or you have over 10,000 followers and don’t want to follow them all back.
The Problem with Blocking Bit.ly – the Mask-Around
Spammers are smart and/or intuitive. Instead of using bit.ly, they’ll use another system that gets around the twitter issue. Twitter might then block that, but in the meantime, you don’t see a bit.ly link – you see a My.website link. Give a spammer/hacker 2-3 days with an $8 /year website domain and they could make enough to buy another $8 domain and start the process over again.
Of course this is a very common problem with url shorteners. Tiny URL added spam block and virus protect tools shortly after they started. Bit.ly also has some preventative measures (using companies like Sophos, Verisign, Websense and more). Still, they are not responsible for 3rd party content using their links.
Bottom Line – Don’t click on unknown links
Usually bad links start with “Hey, is this you” or “I got a way you can make money” which really translates to “I got a way for ME to make money using you”. If you choose to opt-in to letting anyone DM you, keep in mind you will get spam in your message box. If you don’t feel confident you can sniff out the good from bad, then simply don’t check the box.