Twitter takes on WhatsApp with a HUGE new feature launching today – here’s what you need to know
- Elon Musk is expected to launch encrypted messaging on Twitter today
- He also unveiled that video and voice chat functions were ‘coming soon’
- The launch comes amidst uncertainty in the UK over the Online Safety Bill
Elon Musk is preparing to take on WhatsApp with huge plans to launch encrypted direct messages (DMs) today.
Intentions to boost the privacy of Twitter were announced in a post late last night, as the billionaire joked he ‘could not see your DMs even if there was a gun to [his] head’.
The anticipated launch comes as part of Musk’s goal of making Twitter an ‘Everything App’, with a range of other features such as payments and longform tweets.
His late-night post also revealed that video and voice chat functions were ‘coming soon’, bringing Twitter in line with Meta’s social platforms with similar features.
At midnight, he tweeted: ‘With latest version of app, you can DM reply to any message in the thread (not just most recent) and use any emoji reaction. Release of encrypted DMs V1.0 should happen tomorrow.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk is expected to launch encrypted messaging on Twitter today
The billionaire also unveiled that video and voice chat functions were ‘coming soon’ too
‘This will grow in sophistication rapidly. The acid test is that I could not see your DMs even if there was a gun to my head.
WHAT IS END-TO-END ENCRYPTION?
End-to-end encryption ensures only the two participants of a chat can read messages, and no one in between – not even the company that owns the service.
End-to-end encryption is intended to prevent data being read or secretly modified when it is in transit between the two parties.
The cryptographic keys needed to access the service are automatically provided only to the two people in each conversation.
In decrypted form, messages are accessible by a third party – which makes them interceptable by governments for law enforcement reasons.
‘Coming soon will be voice and video chat from your handle to anyone on this platform, so you can talk to people anywhere in the world without giving them your phone number.’
Encryption converts messages into scrambled text that cannot be read by anyone except the intended recipient.
This can better protect your privacy, with messages, pictures, videos and other documents less likely to fall into the wrong hands.
While Musk shared that encrypted messaging should be available from today, he did not indicate whether future call functions will also be encrypted.
Despite this, the planned launch comes at a time when ‘end-to-end encryption’ is at risk in the UK.
This is a result of the Online Safety Bill, with the Government pushing for tech giants to have more responsibility to find and remove illegal content on their platforms.
WhatsApp, Viber and numerous other services that use it wrote an open letter just last month in opposition to its ‘troubling’ intentions.
‘As end-to-end-encrypted communication services, we urge the UK Government to address the risks that the Online Safety Bill poses to everyone’s privacy and safety. It is not too late to ensure that the Bill aligns with the Government’s stated intention to protect end-to-end encryption and respect the human right to privacy,’ it reads.
Twitter’s feature launch comes amidst uncertainty in the UK surrounding the Online Safety Bill
‘Around the world, businesses, individuals and governments face persistent threats from online fraud, scams and data theft. Malicious actors and hostile states routinely challenge the security of our critical infrastructure.
READ MORE: Twitter users SLAM Elon Musk’s plan to ‘purge’ inactive accounts
Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that Twitter is purging inactive accounts
‘End-to-end encryption is one of the strongest possible defenses against these threats, and as vital institutions become ever more dependent on internet technologies to conduct core operations, the stakes have never been higher.’
How this will play into Twitter’s future is currently uncertain, however, Global Cybersecurity Advisor, Jake Moore, believes the UK will never ban encrypted messages.
He said: ‘As more and more people become privacy conscious online, encrypted direct messaging is naturally more in demand and Twitter are essentially being forced into adding this feature.
‘Without the use of encrypted messages, employees and advertisers have the opportunity of reading people’s messages which although can make Twitter a lot of money, it can be a huge security risk to those involved.
‘I don’t think the Online Safety Bill will ever be able to eradicate encrypted messages due to the vital requirement of this feature to protect private communication.
‘The OSB may attempt it further but I can’t see this happening. Many other big tech companies are suggesting they would pull out of the UK if such policies were to be introduced which have far bigger consequences.’
The encryption changes also come in the midst of numerous others that Musk has made during his time at Twitter.
Just two days ago, Musk announced plans to ‘purge’ inactive accounts on Twitter, igniting a backlash among numerous social media users.
Less than a month before that, the Twitter CEO also removed the platform’s legacy blue ticks, raising fears about misinformation.
Mr Moore believes that too many changes could eventually push loyal fans away.
He said: ‘Twitter’s competitors are already fully engrossed in encrypted messaging as well as voice and video chat functionality so this is the next obvious step.
‘As numbers go, the likes of Meta, Snap and TikTok are dominating over Twitter and therefore to recoup some of the losses in the purchase of the site, Musk needs to align the platform as a better rival.
‘However, too many changes can have the opposite effect and could push more loyal fans away like we have previously seen. Many other similar sites to Twitter such as BlueSky and Mastadon are simply waiting on the sidelines for users to migrate over.
‘So, Musk will have to be careful not to ruin the essence of what has made the platform what it is today.’
WHAT IS THE ONLINE SAFETY BILL?
Hailed as groundbreaking regulation of the tech sector, the aim of the Online Safety Bill is to introduce rules to social media and other user-generated content-based sites that compel them to remove illegal material from their platforms, with a particular emphasis on protecting children from harmful content.
In addition, the largest platforms – such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – will have to tackle named forms of ‘legal but harmful’ content, which could include issues such as promoting self-harm or eating disorders.
Under the bill, all platforms in scope will have a duty to find and remove illegal content, as well as have clear and robust terms and conditions in place.
Companies which breach these new rules face fines which could run into billions of pounds for the largest services or face being blocked.
All this would be overseen by communications regulator Ofcom, which is set to become the new regulator of the sector.
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