Be warned: Twitter’s new “fleets” feature can be used for “targeted harassment”

Twitter Fleets
Image: Twitter

It’s been a week since microblogging website Twitter launched “fleets” — ephemeral tweets akin to other platforms’ “stories” feature — and users have had mixed reactions towards the new mode of tweeting. Some have used it to its full advantage, while some have called it a knock-off of what Snapchat and Instagram have already been doing, and better at that.

But these are just feedbacks borne out of preferences, and far from the real problems that Twitter should really be addressing: that the feature can be used for targeted and invisible harassment.

But we’ve had a Stories feature before, right? We post our tweets (or re-post another person’s tweet) to our fleet, and it stays up for 24 hours — by now, we shouldn’t need a tutorial to teach us this.

Except we might, because the devil is in the details.

First-timers of the new Fleet feature were quick to point out that Twitter does not notify users when their tweets are reposted in another person’s fleet. Some even noticed that even if they were tagged in a fleet, they wouldn’t get as much as a small buzz as a notification:

Not only that, but the accounts you’ve blocked — that bully from high school or that troll who’s making money by spewing lies — can still re-post your tweets into their own fleet:

Some of the more tech-savvy Twitter users also brought into light another glitch in Twitter’s API where media shared on fleets can still be seen even after 24 hours:

Mesh all these issues together and you get a hot mess of unsolicited harassment — and you won’t even know it until it hits you.

This isn’t saying that the problem isn’t present in other platforms where the “stories” archetype is being used. However, at least Instagram is keen on calling your attention whenever your stories are taken a screenshot of, or whenever someone re-posts your photos onto their own stories. They’re also strict on giving you control over who can see your stories. By missing out on these useful security measures, Twitter is unknowingly allowing you to be cyber-lynched for your personal opinions, possibly beyond your fleets’ 24-hour lifespan.

The good news is Twitter is listening, and they’re addressing all these lapses in the new feature’s security. This is exactly what we need — in a platform particularly and blatantly abused to promote bigotry, hate, and misinformation, the last thing we need is a troll making our lives miserable for a tweet that’s supposed to be, well, fleeting.

Tweet (and fleet) responsibly, folks!

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