Twitter is rolling out the first version of encrypted direct messages (DMs). However, only verified accounts, including Blue subscribers and those affiliated to verified organisations, can access the feature for now.
The encrypted Direct Message will appear as separate conversations, alongside the existing Direct Messages in the inbox. Twitter claims to use a combination of “strong cryptographic schemes to encrypt every single message, link, and reaction that are part of an encrypted conversation before they leave the sender’s device, and remain encrypted while stored on Twitter’s infrastructure. Once messages are received by the recipient devices, they are decrypted so that they can be read by the user.”
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The feature is supported on the latest version of Twitter app across the iOS, Android, Web platforms. The encryption is done through a pair of device specific keys, called private and public key pair. The public key is automatically registered when a user logs into Twitter on a new device or browser while the private key is secret key that remains in the device and can’t be accessed by even Twitter. Along with the private-public key pairs, there is a per conversation key that is used to encrypt the content of messages. The private-public key pairs are used to exchange the conversation key securely between participating devices.
To send encrypted DMs, the steps are same as that for sending regular messages. Those eligible to send encrypted DMs will see a toggle after clicking on the message icon. It will enable the “encrypted” mode. Select the eligible recipient, type your message and click send to send the encrypted message.
You can also choose to send an encrypted message through the conversation settings page of an unencrypted conversation. Just tap into an unencrypted conversation from inbox. Tap on the information icon and select “Start an encrypted message.”
There is a lock icon badge on the encrypted conversations to visually differentiate them from regular unencrypted conversations. The badged avatar shows up in both the inbox and conversation views.
Twitter’s encrypted DMs come with some limitations like it does not support group conversations. The encrypted message can only include text and links. Media and other attachments are not supported yet.
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“An encrypted message can only include text and links; media and other attachments are not supported yet. When users attempt to send media via an encrypted conversation, this action will not be completed. Reactions to encrypted messages are also encrypted. Also, while messages themselves are encrypted, metadata (recipient, creation time, etc.) are not, and neither is any linked content (only links themselves, not any content they refer to, is encrypted).”
The feature is also unavailable for those re-installing Twitter app on the device.