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How Secure is Your Twitter Account?

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July 18, 2017 – Ashley Ross, Account Coordinator

In January 2009, Twitter users published more than two million tweets per day. Today, users are tweeting a total of 500,000 million times per day. That's 6,000 tweets per second, 350,000 per minute and 200 billion per year.

That is a lot of tweeting. If 99.999 percent of these tweets per year posed no threat, that .001 percent still adds up to more than two million tweets considered to be dangerous. Vice President of Trust and Safety at Twitter, Del Harvey, and the rest of her security team have their hands full.

It is Twitter's goal to ensure the safety of its users while also still allowing for free expression. Twitter has become one of the most public forums of the digital age. Its censors now, "have more power over the future of privacy and free expression than any king, president or Supreme Court justice," writes American academic and commentator on legal affairs, Jeffrey Rosen.

Harvey and her team spend their time taking care of the one-in-a-million chance that something is dangerous. On a platform with 320 million users, that one-in-a-million chance happens about 500 times per day. Because of these odds, the team has to consider catastrophe at each corner.

"People do weird things," said Harvey. A message reading, "Hey loser" could be conveyed in multiple ways as either a greeting or a form of abuse. They can't block tweets without context for this reason. A page that is sending multiple notifications that look like typical spamming could be a notification users signed up for. Maybe it's a link to a video you wanted to see or a warning that the meteor you've been waiting for is passing by.

Twitter's team assumes the worst in every situation and works backward to ensure security. Harvey says she always thinks, "How could this lead to my death?" When Twitter rolled out pictures with tweets, Harvey thought about the possibilities of a picture of her cat leading to her death. With that in mind, Twitter decided to strip images of the geodata that includes the latitude and longitude of where the picture was taken. This step protects users from sharing their location with stalkers.

Twitter does a lot to keep users safe, but security should start with the user.

Here are a few ways to keep your account secure, according to Twitter:

  • Use a strong password that isn't used on other websites and is changed at least two times a year
  • Use login verification
  • Be cautious of suspicious links and always make sure you're on twitter.com before entering login information
  • Never give your username or password out to third parties, especially those promising to get you, followers, make you money or verify you
  • Report offensive content after considering the context
  • Unfollow or block any users engaging in harassment
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