Twitter allows anyone to send you a direct message: This is an upgrade?

For businesses, this makes sense. But for individuals, it seems like an invitation for 140-character spam. The good news: The feature is opt-in.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Is this a feature or a bug? Twitter, the popular 140-character social network, has now made it easier than ever for anyone to send you a Direct Message.

According to Twitter, "Communicating with people you may or may not know in real life just got easier. Previously, if you wanted to send a Direct Message (DM) to the ice cream shop down the street about how much you love their salted caramel flavor, you'd have to ask them to follow you first. With today's changes, the ice cream shop can opt to receive Direct Messages from anyone; so you can privately send your appreciation for the salted caramel without any barriers."

OK. That's fine if I'm an ice-cream shop.

But, say I'm an ordinary person. I'm already buried in spam on my e-mail; Facebook posts from "friends" who are convinced that Hillary Clinton is the anti-Christ and others who are sure that Republican equals retarded; and endless credit card companies phone calls. Do, I really need an easy way for Joe Random Stranger to DM me? I don't think so.

In the past, for two people to DM each other they had to follow each other. Now, anyone can DM you. As a business communications service, this makes sense. For individuals, it's not that attractive. It seems like an invitation for 140-character spam.

Some people have other objections. Nicole Lee, senior editor at Engadget tweeted, "If you're wondering why I'm not allowing DMs from anyone, it's because I'm a woman on the internet." This is not just a feminist issue. Twitter CEO Dick Costlo recently admitted in a leaked internal message that "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years."

Fortunately, Twitter has set the new DM default to not being able to receive DMs from Tom, Dick, or Harry. If you want to make certain that you can't be tweeted at by strangers go to your Twitter home page and click on your profile photo on the upper right of the page. Then click on settings. Next, pick Security and Privacy from the menu on the left. Then go to the bottom of this screen and make sure the box "Receive Direct Messages from anyone" isn't checked if you'd rather not receive messages from just anyone.

If you do elect to allow anyone to DM, you'll be glad to know if you block someone on Twitter they will be unable to DM you. On the other hand, if you delete a Direct Message or conversation (sent or received), it is deleted from your account only. The other persons -- or persons, if a group conversation -- will still have copies of your messages.

This new DM functionality comes after Twitter added group messages and 30-second videos in January. Earlier in January, Twitter had added a language translation function to its mobile operating system applications.

In recent quarters, Twitter has continued to grow, but at a sluggish pace. The company is still losing money. In its last quarter it saw a net loss of $125 million, or 20 cents per share. While this new DM method is meant to help Twitter's revenue, it has not been monetized yet. According to a Twitter spokesperson, "Though companies can use Direct Messages, we don't offer an official ad product for Direct Messages at this time."

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