Ello piqued my interest with its hardline rules against things like spamming and auto-follow bots, which are strictly forbidden and reap a permanent ban from the site as punishment. Not even a week after its launch, however, I noticed something odd: My follower count was exploding, and there was something a little off about my new "friends."
I was initially psyched by my supposed Ello popularity, but as my follower count rose minute by minute, my excitement quickly turned to concern, and then annoyance. It finally hit me when I got followed by an account named @loseweight: Ello is already infested with spammers.
Ello has positioned itself as a thoroughly non-commercial network with rules against writing scripts that automatically follow a ton of users and using the platform to generate revenue or advertise products.
The company told me in an email that it's aware of the spam accounts, but says it hasn't quite figured out a good way to remove them automatically.
"Flagging/reporting is the only way to remove spam accounts right now," a spokesperson for Ello told me in an email. "But we're working on a fast process here. Definitely want to nuke all those spammy accounts!"
Ello "is for human beings," its founders insist, to interact with each other in some degree of good faith. Of course, this being the internet and all, that lofty hope is already in danger of being immediately dashed as users hell bent on emerging from Ello's Beta test as bonafide online celebrities are gaming the site with bots. Ello, apparently, is also for people who want to buy invites on eBay, it's worth mentioning.
Not only are individual users racking up the follows and promising immediate quid pro quo, but many top brand and celebrity handles have already been claimed by trolls and people squatting on accounts like Wal-Mart and Mcdonald's in order to, presumably, sell them to their namesakes if they ever figure out how to use Ello in their marketing strategies without actually marketing on the site.
According to one Ello spammer I spoke with, the site is ripe for bot scripts. He's already used them to follow thousands of accounts and is currently squatting on a couple of high profile names—for the hell of it, of course. The site is rudimentary enough for already-thriving bots to be used effectively, and all he did was slightly modify a bot he previously used on Tumblr.
Ello plans on building its niche on exclusivity and an aura of authenticity for its accounts, but, even in its beta, it's already flooded with people trying to make money off of it.
Even as I write this, I'm getting hit every 10 minutes or so with follows from wannabe social media "experts" and accounts with names like @fitness4all.
Ello might eventually wrap its head around this, but, as the company mentioned, the only way it can find and delete spammers is through a manual reporting process. And that's now, when invites are somewhat hard to come by. Hopefully, this is something the site figures out quickly, otherwise Ello won't be for humans at all. It'll be for bots, too, just like every other social network.