Twitter confirmed that a security flaw caused Circle tweets – messages that go only to a small group of trusted friends – to become public. TechCrunch reported the outage in early April, but the platform confirmed the issue today in an email to Twitter Circle users.
“In April 2023, a security incident may have allowed users outside of your Twitter circle to see tweets that should otherwise have been restricted to the circle you posted to,” the email read. Twitter claims the bug has now been fixed and the team knows what caused it.
Twitter Circle has had bugs for months, which is concerning for a feature people use to tweet things they don’t want to share with all of their followers. When we reported on the issue last month, numerous users had tweeted that people outside their circle liked their private tweets; one user even said she posted nudes on her Circle, what slipped between shore and ship and turned up for unintentional eyes.
Most of the time it seemed that Circle tweets in the For You timeline were shown to users who followed the poster but were not in their Circle. Others reported that their Circle tweets reach even further than those they follow.
Privacy violations aside, some Circle tweets still appear without the green banner indicating that they are only visible to a select audience. You can tell these tweets aren’t public because the retweet button is greyed out. These tweets still only reach their intended circles, so it’s not necessarily a privacy issue, but it can be a confusing user experience (I’ve personally received a few messages from friends who were surprised I tweeted so openly about what neighborhood I live in – I had to reassure them that despite the absence of the green banner, the mail was private). TechCrunch first reported on that particular outage back in February, and it’s still unresolved.
At times like this, I remember something former Twitter Trust & Safety head Yoel Roth said shortly after he left the company.
“If protected tweets stop working, run away, because that’s a symptom that something is seriously wrong.”