Late yesterday afternoon many Twitter users began to notice that they could no longer send Direct Messages containing URLs. The complaints about the issue gained steam late into the night, when we reported that Twitter said a ‘technical issue’ was behind the problem with DMs. Updates below.
Well, it turns out that the technical issue may have been referring to the handling of Direct Message spam, not with the sending of URLs. Specifically, we’re hearing from sources inside the company that a wave of hacked accounts a few weeks ago has led to a massive rise in DM spam, where links are sent to users in the hopes that they will click and enter personal information to be collected by scammers. The idea that spam was behind the ban was posited by a report in ReadWrite last night.
What we’re hearing is that the rise in DM spam ended up garnering attention inside Twitter up to the point where an executive inside Twitter’s C-suite got DM spammed. Hence the abrupt ban on URLs inside DMs until the issue can be sorted out.
When we reported on the issue last night, we noted that the cause of the errors could be a bug, or a response to DM spam. In this case, it appears that the ban on sending URLs via DM is a temporary patch to aid in fixing the spam problem, but at this point we have no information about whether this is a permanent measure.
The inconsistencies that we noticed with regards to the sending and receiving of URLs is due to the fact that Verified users and advertisers are exempted from the ban on sending links in DMs. This would impede, of course, the efforts of marketers using Twitter’s legitimate advertising platform to send DMs, something that is part of the flow of a few of Twitter’s ad products. Alcohol advertisers, for instance, use the DMs to verify ages and more. There are also some whitelisted URLs, as noted by the ReadWrite report. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter links appear to work, and there are likely others on the list.
We have reached out to Twitter for more information about the DM spam and what measures it’s taking to curb it.
Update: Twitter has posted a message on its DM help article that reads:
We’re restructuring back-end elements of our direct message system. As a result, users may be unable to send some URLs in direct messages. We apologize for the inconvenience.
One possibility here is that Twitter could be in the process of instituting or expanding a URL banning system across. Doing so would be difficult at this juncture but a great thing for Twitter users, especially given how Twitter has opened up Direct Messages and what plans it might have for the future.
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