A well known security researcher was banished from Twitter for more than two days for including the address of a malicious website in a two-month-old dispatch.
On Tuesday, Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for anti-virus provider F-Secure, found his Twitter account suspended with no explanation. Every one of his tweets had been erased, and those trying to visit his page found a message that said: "Sorry, the account you were headed to has been suspended due to strange activity. Mosey along now, nothing to see here."
Hypponen said his messages to Twitter officials went unanswered, as, indeed those from The Register did as well.
On Friday, his account was reinstated, and around the same time, he received an explanation of sorts. It read:
I've unsuspended your acct.
You were suspended for using the malware URL rnyspeceDOTcom in DMs.
We scan evrythng for malware.
This link shows Hypponen making a reference to a MySpace phishing site on August 3 that read: "I guess somebody will fall for it... a desperate Myspace phishing site at www. rnyspece. com. (don't go there)."
No, it wasn't a direct message, and no, there was no malware involved with the site. And yes, the URL contained spaces to prevent the security challenged from accidentally visiting the site. Ironically, Hypponen happened to be among the first to discover Twitter's malware filter.
The incident highlights the fine line Twitter has to walk in policing its site. As The Reg and plenty of others have pointed out, the site has become a hot bed for come ons that try to trick people into visiting sites that steal their personal information or install malware. Twitter, with its millions of dollars in financing, has an obligation to filter out at least some of the garbage.
But if it hopes to be taken seriously, it can't indiscriminately banish users who legitimately include a suspicious looking phrase or link in a message, especially one that's two months old. Just ask Hypponen, who writes on his newly reinstated account: "This sucks."