Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, has made public his desire to improve how the social network’s direct messages work. In a meeting with employees today, he explained exactly what it looked like.
Framed by presentation slides titled “Twitter 2.0” at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on Monday, Musk told employees the company would encrypt DMs and work to add encrypted video and voice calls between accounts, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The edge.
“We want to allow users to be able to communicate without worrying about their privacy, [or] without worrying about a data breach on Twitter causing all of their DMs to be accessed on the web, or thinking that maybe someone on Twitter could be spying on their DMs,” Musk said. “It’s obviously not going to be cool and it’s happened a few times before.”
Musk is correct that DMs have been exposed before. In 2018, Twitter savvy that an undisclosed number of DMs between the companies and their customers had been accessible by outsiders for over a year. And earlier this year, the The US government has charged a former employee with inappropriate access to user data on behalf of Saudi Arabia, although it is unclear how the DMs were or were not used.
“It should be the case that I can’t watch anyone’s DMs if someone pointed a gun at my head.”
Over the years, Twitter has started and then stopped creating encrypted DMs on several occasions. But now Musk is determined to roll out encryption as a top priority for the vision he calls Twitter 2.0. “It should be the case that I can’t watch anyone’s DMs if someone has pointed a gun at my head,” he told employees Monday.
“Ironically, Moxie Marlinspike used to work at Twitter and actually wanted to do crypto DMs several years ago, [but] was denied, then went to create Signal,” Musk said. (For the curious, The Wall Street Journal has a draft of 2015 detailing Marlinspike’s time on Twitter.)
Musk went on to say that “we also want to have the ability to do voice and video chat through DMs.” He acknowledged that Signal requires sharing a phone number to start a thread and that, through its account system, Twitter can facilitate secure calling “so you don’t have to give someone your phone number. ‘a”. Signal said since 2020 that it is also working to stop relying on phone numbers, although it has yet to deploy this capability.
I would ask Twitter to comment on what Musk said about DM encryption, but the company no longer has a communications service.