Elon Musk has been spitting a lot of “balls of ideas” against the wall since announcing his takeover on Twitter. One of the most applauded, but at the same time somewhat controversial, is the introduction of end-to-end encrypted direct messages on what you might call Twitter 2.0.
Will Elon Musk’s Twitter 2.0 introduce encrypted messaging?
In an April 28 tweet, Musk said that “Twitter DMs should have end-to-end encryption like Signalso no one can spy on or hack your posts.” At the time of writing, Musk’s tweet has amassed 1.4 million likes and has been retweeted over 110,000 times.
It’s no secret that the Forbes Straight Talking Cyber team of myself, Kate O’Flaherty and Zak Doffman are all users of the Signal encrypted messaging app. So it’s a good thing that Musk is trying to make Twitter’s direct messaging feature more like Signal in terms of privacy, isn’t it? A publication from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) four days before Musk’s announcement claimed exactly that. In it, the campaign organization said that “when you send a direct message on Twitter, three parties can read that message: you, the user you sent it to, and Twitter itself.”
This, the EFF continued, means Twitter can turn them over in response to requests from law enforcement. Not only that, he continued, but “they can be leaked and internal access can be abused by malicious hackers and Twitter employees themselves.”
Encrypted messages are not a privacy panacea
Admittedly, one of the repeated concerns I saw tweeted on the social network when Musk made it known he wanted to buy Twitter, was that as the owner, he could read all direct messages past and present. While end-to-end encryption isn’t a privacy panacea, it would at least calm those particular spying fears.
What it cannot do is provide a 100% private messaging platform. Anyone with access to your account, whether it’s a family member picking up an unlocked phone or a malicious actor who has compromised the device, can still read all of your messages. There is also an argument to be made about people abusing these encrypted messages, one of the reasons why they are not already implemented.
Twitter itself states that it has the ability to “Manually review DMs to investigate reported violations and misuse of our Service, or to comply with laws or government requests.“All this without taking into account the regimes that prohibit, or at least restrict, the use of these crypto platforms.
It remains to be seen if Musk would be willing to sacrifice his vision of a free speech social network in these countries in order to provide encrypted messaging to everyone. The coming months will, I think, involve a lot of expectation and vision.