21 April 2015

Twitter Updates Direct-Messaging Options, Creates Room For Strangers


Twitter has confirmed in an announcement that their service has made an interesting update on its DM access (Direct Message access). The announcement which was made yesterday April 20th, stated that the service has included a toggle that now allows all users to receive Direct Messages from any other Twitter user, even if you don’t follow them.

Originally, in order to receive a direct message from another person, you would have to be following that user on Twitter, and only some verified and highly followed accounts could access this “Receive Direct Messages from anyone setting" option before now, as the initial restriction made it difficult for them to communicate more privately. Now, any Twitter user can turn this option on for themselves if they choose.

Twitter Updates Direct-Messaging Options, Creates Room For Strangers
Originally only some verified and highly followed accounts could access this option,
but now any user can turn this option on for themselves if they choose.

Following this change, the company is also updating its messaging rules so you can reply to incoming DMs regardless of whether that person follows you in return. Also, a new Direct Message button will appear on profile pages on both Android and iPhone. The button will however only be visible on the profiles of people you can send Direct Messages to, making it more obvious with a glance who’s turned the feature on already.

Twitter’s private messaging features have long been considered a weak point of its service. In the past six months, the service has incorporated features including the option of sending private tweet to following users and group messaging in the hope of making Direct Messages more competitive with other messaging services. With private communication apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp significantly expanding their respective user bases and increasing their users’ engagement, Twitter’s updates come at a time when it has great need to employ focus on improving the Direct Messaging for its users. By enhancing its private messaging functionality, Twitter has a better chance to increase number of users who register for accounts as opposed to those who just install its app for tweeting purposes.

This recent change on Twitter is likely to make twitter’s messaging useful to a wide variety of users: Businesses as well as politicians will be able to reach out to their followers with special appeals, promotions, unique deals and fund raising initiatives, and get quick responses directly on the service; Reporters and news agencies will find it easier and safer to get tips from anonymous twitter account; while individuals will be able to communicate more easily with an interesting tweet.

Although the “update” is completely optional and is automatically turned off for everyone, it certainly has more privacy implications than are apparent at first glance and is distressing as it seems to negate twitter seeming pledge to mitigating harassment on their platform. There is a certain vulnerability in the process as in the case that a user choses to unfollow any user who the user had previously DMed, they (the User that was initially DMed) will still be able to send the user (who unfollowed) messages. In other words, Twitter would automatically assume that the user already granted that person conversational access as per this new system change. It therefore appears that Twitter has opened the door to one new means of contacting a user without consent. Also, People who open their inbox to messages from all and sundry stand a chance of being plagued with spam and other unwanted missives.

In fairness to twitter, they suggest that a way to protect users from unwanted messages would be to simply delete message history from the person who isn’t a mutual connection, as that essentially blocks the offender and stops the same user (the offender) from sending further private messages to the offended user.

Twitter is positive about this update as they “…hope these changes help you connect more easily—and directly—on Twitter with the people, causes and businesses you care about most.”

Also read: The New Twitter Profile Is Now Available to Everyone

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