In a move that could be construed as part of its campaign against spam, Twitter no longer allows links in direct messages to other users.
Direct messages can be used to spread malware
In a social media site like Twitter, direct messages are basically the only means of communicating privately, which only the parties involved can read. Sadly, direct messages are also being used by spammers to spread malware meant to hijack the Twitter accounts of recipients, using hacked Twitter accounts no less.
While the blocking of links in direct messages to in order to thwart spammers is commendable, one should also take into consideration that many Twitter users make use of the direct message feature to send private messages, and those private messages could contain links to personal websites, events or projects that the user certainly does not want the public to know.
Major sites are exempted from ban
Actually, I first heard about this ban of URLs in direct messages from other users who complained about not being able to send links of their choosing over the Twitter feature. To satisfy my curiosity, I tried sending a link in direct messages to other Twitter users, and true enough, none of them ever went through. All I got was an error notice.
What’s interesting is the fact that URLs linking to Facebook, Instagram and of course, Twitter actually went through when I gave it a try. The same goes for email addresses. So what does this mean? If you ask me, this means that Twitter actually first banned all links, then unblocked specific URLs websites which they know to be safe. From that, we can glean that the Twitter move to block links in direct messages is indeed part of its campaign against spam and malicious links.
Curiously enough, all I got when I tried sending a link through a direct message was an error notice. Some of the people I know on Twitter actually reported receiving messages that say the link they put in is malware, even when it really isn’t.
Twitter rolling out changes
From what I’ve been reading all over the social media network, people are already starting to complain about this new and unannounced change implemented by Twitter. Personally, I think this is a huge mistake, if ever it’s something the people behind Twitter deliberately did and not because it’s a technical issue, as some Twitter users are suggesting it may be.
One change about direct messages that Twitter has actually announced is that it will allow users to opt-in to receive direct messages from any user, which is obviously a ploy to make Twitter even more palatable to people who are into online marketing as well as the site’s advertising partner. This is a complete turnaround from its previous policy of allowing direct messages only from Twitter users you are following.
Still, sending links in direct messages on Twitter is a major function that has benefited tons of users before, this writer included. With this ban on links in direct messages on Twitter, I have now switched to using Facebook to privately send someone a link. If this ban proves to be a permanent one, then it wouldn’t be a surprise if people start using Twitter and its direct messages less, and that is certainly something that the people running Twitter should really be concerned about.