Elon Musk Confirms Twitter Will Soon Feature Encrypted DMs

A major new feature is officially coming to Twitter. Elon Musk has publicly confirmed what sources had claimed in November 2022: encrypted direct messages (DMs) are part of his Twitter 2.0 vision for the microblogging platform. According to Musk, the feature will debut sometime in March 2023 if everything goes according to plan.

Encryption is big news for Twitter users who have significant professional or personal engagement in the platform. Without encryption, Twitter employees are able to view messages; with encryption, not even Twitter itself will be able to view DMs. That's an extra layer of security that is already available on Facebook Messenger, as well as dedicated encrypted messaging apps like Signal. Such protections would be particularly reassuring in light of past security breaches at Twitter, including the major "bitcoin" hack of 2020 that resulted in some accounts' full direct message histories being exposed.

At the same time, encryption can't solve every data security problem — for example, it can't prevent the social engineering that was used by hackers to get access to the tools that made the aforementioned bitcoin scam possible. As Elon Musk promises Twitter 2.0, a new vision for the service purporting to repair flaws tolerated by his predecessors, it remains to be seen just how encryption will be employed and to what extent it will impact patterns of use.

Encrypting Twitter DMs isn't a new idea

Twitter has been exploring the possibility of encrypting direct message data since well before Musk's takeover, to the point of reaching the prototype stage in 2018. The project appears to have stalled there, at least as far as pre-Musk Twitter leadership goes. Twitter encryption seems to have gotten a jump from Musk, however. 

Developer Jane Manchun Wong spotted the basic code structure for end-to-end encryption in November 2022. Wong tagged Musk at the time, who responded with a winking emoji. He has since confirmed that Twitter plans to roll out encrypted DMs sometime in March 2023.

Though Musk has said the company is "aiming" to roll out encrypted messaging this month, it's possible we'll see that timeline pushed further out. Twitter is notoriously running on only a fraction of the staff it once had due to massive layoffs and a general employee exodus following Musk's acquisition in late October. The rapid reduction in headcount has reportedly left many teams gutted while remaining employees face long work hours in an effort to meet Musk's ambitious, if not inhumane, deadlines for projects and changes.