Twitter now a lot more like text messaging; that’s good and bad

A new option on your Twitter settings page
A new option on your Twitter settings page

Twitter has changed a major privacy setting, but it’s done so in the right way.

It’s now possible for strangers to send private messages to users, making the service more like e-mail or text messaging. But by default, nothing has changed, so users have to take a step to do something that might sacrifice their digital privacy in exchange for the benefits of a new feature – they have to opt-in. Still, you should check your settings page and make sure it’s arranged to suit your preference. Hint: Mine is probably very different from yours.

For the uninitiated, most Twitter conversations happen out in the open, but users have the option of sending private “direct messages” to each other.  Until now, however, “DM” communications required users on both ends of the conversation to be “following” each other, Twitter’s version of being friends. Not any more. Twitter has been rolling out an option that allows users to DM anyone they follow, without the follow-back requirement. The would-be recipient simply has to check a box in settings that says “receive direct messages from any follower.” This will decrease the awkward “follow for DM” Tweets that you see littering the service right now (guilty!).

This is fantastic for journalists like me: I want people to be able to reach out and give me tips privately in any way possible. But for most folks, the risk of opening yourself up to spam and other unwanted messages seems not worth it. So you probably don’t want to do anything.

Me, I’ve checked the box, so please DM those tips to @RedTapeChron.


About Bob Sullivan 1443 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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