Twitter allows users to connect with anyone in the world, but it has also become a dangerous place filled with harassment and abuse. People have been targeted by coordinated harassment campaigns that can involve anything from threats and spamming to account hacks and worse. Twitter has been criticized for not acting fast enough to remove harassers from its platform, and in many cases, allowing abuse to flourish.
In recent months, Twitter has started testing many new features to change the way people interact on the platform. Some, like stopping people from sharing an article they have not read, may be helpful. Others, like the ability to turn off comments or send voice tweets, promise to introduce new issues instead of solving the current ones.
When it comes to staying safe on Twitter, it’s important to note that social media companies thrive on conflict. While there are ways to secure your account, you can’t completely protect yourself from all forms of abuse. This week’s hack of Twitter’s highest profile users, however, came from inside the house, according to reports, and there was nothing anyone could do to prevent it.
The only guaranteed way to protect yourself is to spend less time on social media or delete your account. It may also be worth exploring an alternative like Mastodon. However, if you are going to stay on Twitter, here’s how to make it as secure as possible.
These days, a strong password is not enough to keep your account safe. For added security, Twitter offers two-factor authentication and added verification around password resets. You can access these settings by going to More > Settings and Privacy > Account > Security.
You can then set up how you receive your second form of verification: text message, authenticator app, or security key. Once Login verification is activated, you’ll be required to enter your password and then the login code provided via that second form of verification. When you’re offline, you can use backup codes that Twitter will provide when you activate this feature. Just be sure to save them in a secure place.
You can also use password reset protection to ensure that no one can infiltrate, and then lock you out of, your Twitter account. Checking this option will require you to provide an email address or phone number whenever you try to change your password.
One of Twitter’s greatest strengths is also probably its biggest weakness. The ability to communicate with anyone on the platform, not just those in your immediate friend circle, opens things up for a wider conversation. But that also means you aren’t protected from strangers coming after you.
If you don’t want everyone to see what you’re writing, protect your tweets so that only your followers can see them. On desktop and mobile, navigate to Settings and Privacy > Privacy and Safety and check the box next to Protect Your Tweets. On mobile, you can flip the switch to on.
From this moment on, your tweets will not be visible to non-followers, they won’t show up in searches, and can’t be retweeted. A lock will also appear next to your name, and new followers will need to be approved by you.
Deactivate Tweet Location
You have the option to send tweets with location data attached to them. This feature can help users share where they have been and connect with others in the same location. But as well-intended as location sharing was meant to be, broadcasting your current location online can be dangerous for some. The good news is that Twitter allows you to deactivate this feature at any time.
On desktop, navigate to Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Location information and uncheck Add location information to my Tweets. Here, you can also delete location data from past tweets, but be advised that it could take awhile to roll out to all tweets. On mobile, go to Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Precise location and turn it off.
Control Photo Tagging
Twitter allows its users to tag each other in photos as another means to share experiences across the platform. But it’s been misused by some to harass or spam others, so Twitter lets you control who can tag you in photos.
Navigate to Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Photo tagging, where you can turn this off completely or choose who can tag you—Anyone can tag you or Only people you follow can tag you.
Twitter uses phone and email contacts to find people you may know on Twitter and suggest them as people to follow. That means you will show up to people who have your contact information. But just because you have someone’s number in your phone doesn’t mean you want them hunting you down on Twitter.
Thankfully, this is off by default, but you can ensure that everything is to your liking at Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Discoverability. You can stop users from finding your account by deactivating just email addresses, just phone numbers, or both. If you don’t want to see your contacts on Twitter, you can manage your contacts and delete them from the app’s records.
Advertising and Data Tracking
Though Twitter hasn’t been hit by the data-collection controversies Facebook has dealt with, the platform still keeps track of your activity in order to serve personalized ads. If you’re looking to secure your account and information, you may also want to control how Twitter collects and shares data.
Navigate to Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Personalization and data. You can turn off personalized ads, and personalization based on identity, location, and device. You can also prevent Twitter from sharing collected data with advertisers. Turn all these features off at once by flipping the switch next to the Personalization and data heading.
Shut Down Your DMs
Though Twitter is mostly a public messaging app, it also allows users to send private Direct Messages (DMs) to each other. At first, DMs could only be exchanged between two people who followed each other. But in 2015, Twitter allowed people to open their DMs to anyone, which can be helpful for some and dangerous for others.
Check the status of your DMs under Privacy and safety > Direct Messages to control who can message you and whether they can see you read their message. Uncheck Receive messages from anyone to ensure that people you don’t follow can’t send you a direct message. Turn off Show read receipts so you don’t tip people off to the fact that you have read their message. You can also activate a quality filter to weed out what Twitter deems as “lower-quality” messages.
Sometimes certain words or phrases can be harmful for users to see, which is why Twitter allows you to mute words. By adding a word to your mute list, it means that Twitter will automatically filter out any tweets with those words from your feed.
To mute a word, go to Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Muted > Muted words. Tap the plus sign (desktop) or Add button (mobile) to add a new word. From there, you can specify how long you want it muted: 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, or forever. Then select where you want the word muted from—your timeline, notifications, or both—and whether to mute it from anyone or just people you don’t follow. To remove a muted word from your blocked list, tap it and select Delete word (mobile) or click the muted speaker icon (desktop).
Block and Mute Accounts
Blocking an account ensures that it will no longer show up in your timeline, and it prevents that user from viewing your activity. However, users will know if you block them, so some people prefer muting instead. When you mute an account, it removes their tweets from your feed. If you follow them, you’ll still see replies and mentions in your notifications; if you don’t follow them, they won’t appear.
There are two ways of blocking or muting. On the account’s profile page, select the three-dot icon and choose Mute or Block. Or tap the downward-facing arrow from within your feed and choose Mute or Block.
Review muted accounts via Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Muted > Muted accounts. Review blocked accounts via Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Blocked accounts.
Hide Sensitive Content
Twitter allows a wide range of content on its platform, meaning some tweets might contain sensitive material you wouldn’t normally want being displayed on your timeline. Under Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety, make sure the box next to Display media that may contain sensitive content is unchecked. If you’re the one tweeting sensitive information, check the box next to Mark media you Tweet as containing material that may be sensitive. You can also go to Settings and privacy > Content preferences > Search settings and check Hide sensitive content.
Turn On the Quality Filter
Twitter’s quality filter prevents you from seeing low-quality content, like duplicate and automated tweets to cut down on spamming. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of muting and blocking words and accounts, this filter might help. Turn it on via Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Notifications and make sure that the quality filter is turned on.
Under Advanced filters, you can opt to mute notifications from people: you don’t follow; who don’t follow you; with a new account; who have a default profile photo; who haven’t confirmed their email; and who haven’t confirmed their phone number. These options are meant to protect you from accounts used infrequently or anonymously to harass users.
If you feel an account has been abusive enough to warrant action by Twitter, you can report it. Like blocking and muting, you have the ability to report an account from the profile page or directly from a tweet. Click the three-dot icon from the account page and select Report, or open the drop-down menu on a specific tweet and select Report Tweet to tell Twitter why you find this content to be offensive and/or abusive.
Depending on the reasons you give, Twitter may give you the opportunity to add multiple tweets to a single report. Be warned, though, because as simple as it might seem, Twitter doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to actually banning offensive accounts.
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