Twitter Circle glitches have users worried about privacy
As more Twitter features break and glitch, users are becoming increasingly concerned about the platform's stability.
We're about three months into Elon Musk's ownership of Twitter, and a number of problems plague the platform, likely because so many staff have left or been laid off. Some people, including Musk and Libs of TikTok, have temporarily put their accounts on private to see if that boosts engagement. Android users are reporting that they can no longer DM people. Others can briefly see posts from people who have blocked them, posing a privacy concern. In a truly heinous crime of engineering, some users report that they don't see birthday balloons anymore. The list goes on.
This helped identify some issues with the system. Should be addressed by next week.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 2, 2023
For anyone who loves to overshare on the internet, one possibly-broken feature is particularly concerning: Twitter Circle.
Over the summer, Twitter rolled out its Circle feature, which functions like Instagram's Close Friends stories. Instead of making an alt account to privately reach the people you trust, you can add them to your Circle. When someone posts to their Circle (and you've been added to that group), you can see a green banner beneath their tweets, indicating that it's a Circle tweet. Now, many users' tweets are no longer appearing with that green banner, sparking some moments of panic that you accidentally tweeted to your entire following something intended for your friends.
We have observed that the green banner rarely appears when we see other users' Circle tweets. Instead, you can tell that a post was sent to the Circle because it becomes unable to be retweeted. If the user is already private, there doesn't seem to be a distinction. If you try to retweet these posts, a somewhat broken notice will arise, saying that "only (null) and their Twitter Circle can see these Tweets," failing to populate the user's name.
Some users have tweeted that their Circle tweets have been posted publicly, although TechCrunch has not been able to confirm this behavior. Whether tweets are actually seen beyond their intended audience or not, the confusion is enough to undermine the privacy-focused feature.
Some people have tweeted warnings to their followers that they should be careful with what they post on Circle, since it may not be as private as they think. Others have said that that they're operating under the assumption that their DMs may become public one day and no users should have the expectation of privacy on Twitter at the moment.
Of course, it poses a real privacy concern if users cannot fully control who their audience is. Yoel Roth, Twitter's former head of trust and safety, warned us after he resigned that "If protected tweets stop working, run, because that’s a symptom that something is deeply wrong."
We might not quite be there yet, but there's definitely reason to be concerned if Twitter Circle is glitching like this.
The saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." To those who remain on Twitter staff, I implore you: If it ain't broke, please just don't touch it, because it will almost definitely crumble before our very eyes.