Twitter’s new fast DM feature test raises harassment concerns

7 Feb 2022

Image: © Aleksei/Stock.adobe.com

The new feature that would make it easier to DM other users has been criticised for its potential to exacerbate harassment on the platform.

Twitter is testing a new feature that would allow users to send a direct message, or DM, to a tweet’s author from their timelines.

The new feature was announced in a tweet last week by Twitter Support, saying it would make it easier for those on the platform to “start a conversation”.

Future Human

But many users replied raising concerns around how the move could make harassment easier by eliminating the need to go to another user’s profile to send a DM.

Eliza Orlins, a public defender in New York, replied to the Twitter Support tweet asking the platform not to introduce the feature because it is “almost never about ‘starting a conversation’ when people are sending unsolicited DMs”.

“We understand the concern,” Twitter Support said in a reply to another user who asked the company to reconsider the move. “Our goal here is to make it easier to engage with a tweet – sometimes replying publicly can be daunting,” it added.

“If you’re getting unwanted DMs, you can limit who can DM you in settings, block an account, or report a message if you think it breaks our rules.”

It is not clear if users would be able to opt out of this feature, which is currently being tested with some iOS users.

Charlotte Catania, a consumer communications manager at Twitter, told The Verge in an email that the “experiment is not changing the current settings of anyone’s DMs”.

“We’re always exploring ways to make DMs more accessible and valuable for people on Twitter, and they will always remain in control: anyone has the ability to close their DMs in their settings,” she said.

Twitter recently acquired start-up Quill to improve its messaging tools and services, a purchase that could be linked to its new strategy to reduce reliance on ad revenue and attract paying subscribers.

The social media company has also been taking measures to prevent harassment on its platform. In September, Twitter was trialling a new feature called Safety Mode to detect when accounts are sending potentially harmful or insulting tweets and autoblock them.

A ‘soft block’ feature was also being tested that would remove people from a user’s list of followers in a few simple clicks, without needing to completely block them.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com