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Twitter's encrypted DMs are here — but only for verified users

There are still some major limitations to the feature.

FILE - The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device, on April 25, 2022, in San Diego. After several false starts, Twitter began making good on its promise Thursday, April 20, 2023, to remove the blue checks from accounts that don't pay a monthly fee to keep them. Twitter had about 300,000 verified users under the original blue-check system — many of them journalists, athletes and public figures. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
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Karissa Bell
Karissa Bell|@karissabe|May 10, 2023 7:49 PM

Twitter is beginning to roll out its long-promised encrypted direct messaging feature. However, the initial rollout comes with some major limitations that could make it less than ideal for privacy-conscious Twitter users.

Of note, the feature is currently only available to verified Twitter users, which includes Twitter Blue subscribers and those part of a “Verified Organization.” It’s not clear if this is just for the early rollout or if encryption will be added to the growing list of exclusive features for users with a checkmark. For now, an encrypted chat requires both users to be verified, according to the company.

There are also some significant limitations to the feature itself. It doesn’t support group messages, or any kind of media other than links. The company also doesn’t allow users to report an encrypted message directly, advising on a help page that users should report accounts separately if they “encounter an issue with an encrypted conversation participant.”

Screenshot of Twitter's DM inbox showing an option to
Twitter

Finally, the level of encryption appears to be less secure than what other apps offer. For one, message metadata is not encrypted. Furthermore, Twitter notes that “currently, we do not offer protections against man-in-the-middle attacks” and suggests that the company itself is still able to access encrypted DMs without the participants knowing. “If someone–for example, a malicious insider, or Twitter itself as a result of a compulsory legal process—were to compromise an encrypted conversation, neither the sender or receiver would know,” the company explains on a help page. It added that it’s working on improvements that would make such exploits more “difficult.”

That’s particularly notable because it falls far short of the standard Twitter owner Elon Musk has described when expressing his desire to add encryption for Twitter DMs. He has said he wants it to be impossible for the company to access users’ encrypted messages even if “someone puts a gun to our heads.”

In a tweet, Twitter security engineer Christopher Stanley acknowledged the shortcoming. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’re working on it.”

For those who are verified and want to try out the feature anyway, encrypted messaging can be accessed via the info menu (that’s the same menu you use to block or report a conversation) within a particular DM. Once encryption is enabled, the encrypted messages will appear as a separate message thread with labels at the top of the chat to indicate that the conversation is encrypted.

Twitter's encrypted DMs are here — but only for verified users