Twitter Defends Itself Against 'Auto-Follow' Bug

Twitter bug lets users force other Twitter users to follow them.

ByABC News
May 10, 2010, 1:34 PM

May 10, 2010— -- For a brief period Monday, Twitter users with few followers could have boosted their audience through a bug that let users force anyone to follow them.

Users only had to tweet "accept," followed by "@" and the user's Twitter handle to add that user to their list of followers, according to social media blog Mashable.

Details about the bug's origin are scarce but Twitter confirmed the bug's existence on its status blog.

"We identified and resolved a bug that permitted a user to "force" other users to follow them," Twitter said on its blog, adding that the bug did not publicize protected updates. "We're now working to rollback all abuse of the bug that took place. Follower/following numbers are currently at 0; we're aware and this too should shortly be resolved."

Twitter spokesman Sean Garrett also confirmed that the bug is real.

Technology site CNET said the bug appeared to have been noticed first by a Turkish blog and then the blog Webrazzi. In testing the bug, Webrazzi said it had successfully forced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Evan Williams and others to follow its account.

Mashable said one of the victims was Conan O'Brien, previously notorious for following just one person. Thanks to the bug, his follower count ballooned to 194.

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton noted that the bug not only let users add followers but it also gave them the power to direct message anyone on the site

"Not only can you FORCE your favorite celebs to follow you, but you can Direct Message them too! Some have their DMs go to their phones!" he wrote.

While some Twitter users bemoaned that their follower list shrank to zero, actor Ashton Kutcher took it all in stride.

"twitter is being hacked by some turkish hacker. haha I have 0 followers," he wrote.

It didn't take long for the bug to make its way into Twitter's list of Trending Topics, where some users seemed to turn the bug into the latest online meme.