Is Twitter Circles Broken?

Is Twitter Circles Broken?

If you’re a regular Twitter Circles user, you should probably stop posting things you wouldn’t want seen by the wider public. Numerous tweeters are reporting that their supposedly private Twitter Circle posts are accessible to the whole Twittersphere, letting their more private thoughts or pics loose on the wider community.

Since at least this past weekend, multiple Twitter users have reported strangers being able to read and even like their private tweets. Twitter Circles was first released in August last year, allowing users to post tweets to a limited, selective audience. Users not in these circles have recently been able to sometimes see and then interact with these tweets.

Ian Coldwater, an info security engineer, similarly shared screenshots showing several people who weren’t a part of their select group could like their Circles tweets. Even if the usual rule of thumb is to keep private information off public networks, Twitter users may be posting private content under the false impression that those posts will be kept confidential.

They’re not the only one confirming this issue. Former Twitch engineer Theo Browne wrote that he was able to get a friend not listed on his circle to like a tweet he shouldn’t have been able to see. His experiment showed that multiple people he didn’t follow were allowed to look at and like the Circles post.

Browne told TechCrunch Monday that Twitter seemed to be failing to filter private content before offering it to users in their “For you” feeds. He said people he wasn’t even following had access to some of his Circles tweets. Twitter has tried to push the algorithm-based “For you” as the default setting on the app, though Twitter quickly reversed that decision.

Gizmodo could not independently confirm Circles was broken, but multiple other users all seemed to have the same problem, where Circles tweets appeared in non-followers “For you” tabs. BuzzFeed also quoted other users who said replies made to other people’s Circles tweets also seem to appear in Twitter’s algorithm. Another user said that some “risqué” photos posted to their Circles was seen by at least one person they didn’t follow.

Any attempt to reach Twitter’s PR results in a “poop” emoji. On Saturday, Twitter’s engineering team announced it had updated the site’s algorithm after the company made some of its source code public last month. These changes reportedly made the algorithm weigh replies and clicks much higher than before. It’s unclear if these changes messed with Circles in any way, though users reported these problems on Friday, before these changes were made public.

The feature has been glitchy in the past, but this is the first time users report being able to see posts that should be contained to people’s private community. TechCrunch has previously reported users not seeing the green banner that’s supposed to appear with a Circles tweet.

Users have reported other major glitches with the platform as of late. Some users said their tweets have started vanishing from feeds. As part of owner Elon Musk’s massive layoffs, the engineering department was particularly gutted.

Still, some problems that seemed at first to be glitches were actually engineered. Last week users reported issues accessing Substack links on Twitter. Matt Taibbi, who Musk hand-picked to be one of the Twitter Files mouthpieces, all but confirmed that Substack links were harmed because of Substack’s Twitter-like Notes feature. Musk later claimed Substack was trying to “download a massive portion of the Twitter database” and said Taibbi was an “employee” of Substack. Substack CEO Chris Best denied both claims, saying “this is very frustrating.”

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