As more Twitter features break and falter, users become increasingly concerned about the stability of the platform.
We’re about three months into Twitter’s ownership by Elon Musk and the platform is beset by a number of issues, probably because so many staff have left or been laid off. Some people, including TikTok’s Musk and Libs, have temporarily set their accounts to private to see if that’s the case raises involvement. Android users report that they can no longer DM people. Others may briefly see messages from people they’ve blocked, posing a privacy concern. In a truly heinous crime of engineering, some users report not seeing it birthday balloons not anymore. The list goes on.
For anyone who likes to overshare on the web, one potentially broken feature is of particular concern: Twitter Circle.
Over the summer, Twitter rolled out its Circle feature, which functions like Instagram’s Close Friends stories. Instead of creating an alt account to privately reach the people you trust, add them to your circle. When someone posts to their circle (and you’re added to that group), you’ll see a green banner below their tweets to indicate it’s a circle tweet. Now many users’ tweets no longer appear with that green banner, which caused some moments of panic that you accidentally tweeted to your entire followers, something that was meant for your friends.
We’ve noticed that the green banner rarely appears when we see Circle tweets from other users. Instead, you can see that a message has been sent to the Circle because it can no longer be retweeted. If the user is already private, there doesn’t seem to be a distinction. Attempting to retweet these posts throws up a slightly broken notification, stating that “only (null) and their Twitter circle can see these tweets”, leaving the user’s name blank.
Some users have tweeted that their Circle tweets have been posted publicly, though londonbusinessblog.com has been unable to confirm this behavior. Whether tweets are actually seen outside of their intended audience or not, the confusion is enough to undermine the privacy-focused feature.
Some people have warned their followers to be careful about what they post on Circle because it may not be as private as they think. Others have said they assume their DMs may become public one day and that no user should expect privacy on Twitter at this point.
Of course, it poses a real privacy issue if users can’t fully determine who their audience is. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and security, warned us after he resigned: “If protected tweets stop working, run away, because that’s a symptom that something is seriously wrong.”
We may not be quite there yet, but there’s certainly cause for concern if Twitter Circle falters like this.
The saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To those who remain on Twitter, I beg you: if it ain’t broken, please don’t touch it, because it will almost certainly crumble before our very eyes.