Earlier this afternoon Twitter users began experiencing difficulty sending URLs or ‘links’ via Direct Message. Depending on the client used, error messages popped up that indicated the DMs being sent included links to ‘malware’, or simply indicated that the message could not be sent.
A Twitter spokesperson said only that “there is a technical issue with URLs in Direct Messages.” Though there was no information forthcoming beyond that, it seems unlikely that the inability to send DMs with links in them is a widespread policy decision based on issues like spam or the new DM behavior, though I suppose anything is possible.
This has been a fairly widespread issue, and accounts continue to be easily found via Twitter. Verified users appear to have better luck sending links to both other Verified users and to non-Verified users. However, we have confirmed that even non-Verified folks can send links in some cases. Though the initial error messages indicated a ‘malware’ threat to be the cause of the stoppage, the inconsistency of the errors and the way that they began suddenly indicated that this was a bug, rather than an intentional change in behavior on Twitter’s part.
Though some spam on Twitter is sent via DM, this is more rare than the simple ‘@reply’ spam that litters its ‘airwaves’. Usually, an account password of one of your followers must be compromised to send a DM to you, the person that followed them. This naturally limited the scope of these kinds of attacks, making a sweeping change to all DM communications unlikely and unnecessary. Especially, as pointed out to me, as Twitter itself uses DMs to experiment with features like recommendations.
Recently, Twitter gave some of its users the ability to receive DMs from anyone, regardless of follow status. Previously, only mutual follows could exchange DMs. This led to some speculation that the cause of the URL DM fail was this new behavior, whether it was intentional or a bug incurred by the new behavior rollout.
We will continue to press for more information on the situation and will update this post when we receive a reply.
Image Credit: Will Keightly/Flickr CC and Glenn Fleishman for the error