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The news that Twitter is to allow direct messages of up to 10,000 characters from next month (up from the current limit of 140) is positive in many ways, but for people who allow anyone to contact them via DM, it’s a potential nightmare.
On the plus side, it’s great to see Twitter finally embracing private messaging. It’s such an obvious fit for the service’s most loyal users that it’s baffling it’s taken so long. If you have your DMs locked down just to people you follow, longer messages could be brilliant.
If, however, you take advantage of the ability to let anyone contact you, long DMs are a recipe for spam. There’s already a serious problem with spammers adding multiple people to a group and sending them junk, not to mention the obviously fake accounts that send out individual messages saying things like “Heyyyyyy, good to meet you,” presumably as a prelude to some ‘long con’ aimed at extracting money from the naive.
I don’t want to switch off open DMs as they can be useful – I’ve received news tips and other useful information from people I don’t follow – but I dread the idea that anyone at all could throw 1,000 words of junk at me – that’s what email is for. Being able to send a long message to a friend or a new contact? Sure, great! But long DMs are a spammer’s dream. You can’t send a lot of spam in 140 characters, but 10,000 is enough for the ‘Crown Prince’ of some far-off land to comfortably plead for your help transferring his fortune via your bank account.
Who opens their DMs to anyone? Journalists and businesses must be among the most common, as they have a lot to gain from making it easy for people to contact them – and Twitter really needs them to stick around. Helping spammers send them junk won’t do much to encourage the view that it’s offering a good place to be.
If Twitter is going to be more focused on product in the future, it needs to crack down on its spam problem. Blocking offenders after the fact is okay, and things like the newly shareable block lists are useful, but a Gmail-style pre-emptive spam filter is key to stopping people’s DMs becoming an unflushed toilet.
Identifying spam before users see it should be high priority for a Twitter that values itself as a messaging service.