We could never have predicted all those years ago that a public messaging service with restricted characters and somewhat obvious limitations would go on to become as popular as Twitter is, but here we are. Today, just about everyone is on the platform, and it has carved out a niche as the ideal place to follow friends, business leaders and celebrities, and often directly interact with them too.
While it is at the forefront of online discussion, Twitter does suffer from some of the same drawbacks as any other online communications platform. Trolls, harassment and targeting for whatever reason can all take place on the service, and users should be every bit as conscientious about protecting themselves and their personal information as they would be when installing antivirus software on their device. The following 10 tips provide Twitter users with steps and guides to secure their account and their personal information, to ensure that you only get the good bits of Twitter while avoiding all the bad.
1. Use Two-Factor Authentication
We still await the day when something more creative than passwords comes along for account protection, and not just in the world of Twitter. In the meantime, we have become big advocates for two-factor authentication to the point that we will choose a competing service if the current one does not support it. Fortunately, Twitter does, and this can be enabled under the security settings within your account. It is called Login Verification on the site and users have their pick of a text message, authenticator app or security key to provide this added layer of protection.
2. Secure your Password
Another security setting that we feel that anyone that values their Twitter account should use is the Password Security feature. This works similarly to Login Verification but affects password changes rather than direct account access. Any attempt to change the password on an account will need to be accompanied by an email address or phone number associated with the account, so anyone that has gained access but does not possess this information will have a hard time getting up to no good.
3. Tweet Privately as Required
The popularity of Twitter stems from the fact that anyone can weigh in about anything, and the bulk of discussion on the platform takes place in public. However, the chances are that there will be at least some topics that you would prefer to discuss only with a select few individuals, and this is where Tweet Protection comes into play. This is another option under your privacy settings, and it locks Tweets so that only your followers can see them. It also prevents your Tweets from appearing in searches or being retweeted.
4. Disable Location Settings
The location features on Twitter do serve a purpose, as they can give a Tweet context or encourage those in the same area to interact when they might not have before. However, there will be many Twitter users without any need to display their location and appending where you are to Tweets can be turned off. What we like about this is that the setting applies retroactively too, and if you disable your location, past Tweets will also have this information removed.
5. Manage Photo Tags
Even if you are new to Twitter, if you have used any form of social media previously, you will have become acquainted with the concept of being tagged in photos. Unsurprisingly, you might not always want this to be the case. Another setting worth investigating is known as Photo Tagging, and there, users can opt to allow anyone to tag them, only those that you follow or nobody at all. It is not quite as flexible as Facebook, where users can set their account to require manual approval of each tag, but it is better than nothing.
6. Control Where you Appear
As with most forms of social media, Twitter attempts to make it as easy as they possibly can for users to find people to follow, including those they know from elsewhere. The option is there to import email address books and phonebooks and to match users up to their Twitter profile. However, you can opt-out of showing up as part of this feature using the Discoverability setting in your account.
7. Set Limits on Direct Messages
Once again, the nature of Twitter is primarily public, but there are private communication tools built in there too. Direct messages are handy for some, but worthless to others, especially as anyone can write anything to anyone else outside of public view. You can revert your DM settings to the days of Twitter gone by, where only those that follow each other could send messages, or close them off completely.
8. Utilise the Mute List
If there are certain topics you wish to avoid or words that you associate with messages that you prefer not to see, you can add them to a specific mute list. Any Tweets or other content that contains these words will then be automatically filtered from any area of Twitter with which you interact. This can be done permanently or for a limited time, such as when you wish to avoid movie spoilers until you have seen it before joining the discussion later.
9. Data Collection Still Happens on Twitter
Twitter has performed relatively admirably in avoiding the scandals around tracking and data collection that have affected other social networks. However, the platform is not completely without fault and does collect some information as standard, notably to serve personalised ads. This tracking can be disabled in settings for those that prefer to remain anonymous.
10. Control General Content Across Twitter
You cannot control what is and is not said on Twitter as such, but you do have a surprising amount of control over what you see. As well as the mute list above, you can block all sensitive content from your timeline and searches and can also be liberal with the blocking of specific users.