Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk has been public about his desire to improve how the social network’s direct messaging works. In a meeting with employees today, he laid out exactly what that looks like.
Framed by presentation slides titled “Twitter 2.0” at Twitter’s 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 from the meeting obtained by The edge.
“We want to enable users to communicate without having to worry about their privacy, [or] without having to worry about a data breach at Twitter causing all of their DMs to end up on the web, or thinking that someone at Twitter could be spying on their DMs,” Musk said. “Obviously that’s not going to be cool and it’s happened a few times before.”
Musk is right that DMs have been exposed before. 2018, Twitter warned that an unknown number of DMs between companies and their customers had been accessible to outsiders for more than a year. And earlier this year, the The US government has sued a former employee with inappropriate access to user data on behalf of Saudi Arabia, though it is unclear how DMs were or were not used.
“It should be that I can’t view anyone’s DMs if someone put a gun to my head.”
Over the years, Twitter has kickstarted and then paused building coded DMs several times. But now Musk is committed to rolling out encryption as a top priority for the vision he calls Twitter 2.0. “It should be that I can’t view anyone’s DMs if someone put a gun to my head,” he told employees Monday.
Ironically, Moxie Marlinspike worked at Twitter and actually wanted to do encrypted DMs a few years ago, [but] was denied that and then went on to create Signal,” Musk said. (For the curious, The Wall Street Journal has an excerpt from 2015 detailing Marlinspike’s time on Twitter.)
Musk went on to say that “we also want 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 Twitter’s account system allows Twitter to facilitate secure calling “so you don’t have to give someone your phone number.” Signal says since 2020 that it also works to move away from relying on phone numbers, though it has yet to roll out that capability.
I’d ask Twitter for comment on what Musk said about encrypting DMs, but the company no longer has a communications department.