Twitter regularly experiments with its direct-messaging feature, perhaps because the platform is unsure just how important private chatting is or should be to its efforts. But here we go again: Twitter just turned on a feature that will let anyone send you a message, even if you don’t follow them.
If the move sounds familiar, that’s because Twitter already did this two years ago. The experiment was short-lived—it ended about a month later. But Twitter on Monday said it was trying the whole thing again.
You can now receive direct messages from people, even if you don’t follow them, by opting in under Settings > Security and privacy. Scroll down to the bottom and check the box next to “Receive Direct Messages from anyone.” If you want to send someone a DM but they don’t follow you, there will be a new button to look out for on Twitter for iOS and Android. If a person is accepting DMs from randoms, the new button will appear. No DM button? You can't send that person a private note. (Check out the example to the right.)
The change isn’t a welcome one for many in the Twittersphere who deal with regular harassment on the platform. But the feature is opt-in, not turned on by default, and the New York Times noted that if you delete a thread from a person you don’t follow, Twitter will basically block that person from sending you DMs in the future.
I turned the setting on when it was first rolled out, and it remained active even though other people couldn’t opt into the defunct feature. Anecdotally, being able to receive DMs from people I don’t follow was a mostly positive experience, but that’s due to the nature of my job as a journalist. Many Twitter users face constant abuse and opening up DMs would just allow trolls to become even more invasive. Twitter is working to eradicate the kind of intimidation many of its vocal users experience, but that effort has taken years to gather any steam.