Twitter users say fleets are ripe for harassment

The company says it’s ‘listening to feedback,’ and working on some fixes.

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Karissa Bell
November 18th, 2020
Twitter's fleets look a lot like Instagram Stories.
Twitter

Just hours after Twitter’s new fleets feature first launched to most people, some users are questioning whether the company did enough to account for all the ways its new Stories-like feature could be used for harassment. 

For example, the feature doesn’t appear to respect users’ block settings, as people have reported being able to tag users who have blocked them. As Twitter user Andrew Thaler tweeted, this means “you can use Fleet to direct your followers to harass someone and there is no way for the target to identify the source of the harassment.” There’s also the fact that users don’t currently get notifications if someone else shares their tweet into a fleet, which could make it harder for people to anticipate harassment. 

Twitter says it’s working on a fix for both issues. A spokesperson confirms fleets are supposed to respect block settings, and that the company plans to add a notification feature. 

These aren’t the only potential issues that have cropped up though. Others have noted that fleets allows users to effectively bypass Twitter’s direct message settings, because fleet replies go directly to your inbox, even if your DMs would otherwise be closed. For some, this might be expected. After all, it mirrors the way Story replies work on Instagram: if someone can see your Story, then they can also send you a message. But it might be less than ideal for Twitter users, particularly those who are frequent targets for harassment, who might expect to have more control over who can message them. Correction 11/18: A Twitter spokesperson now clarifies that fleets do not bypass direct message settings, despite concerns from users otherwise. If your DMs are closed, then only people you follow or have previously messaged with can reply or react to a fleet. If, however, the person with closed DMs replies to a fleet, it will begin a direct message thread. So the mechanics are slightly different than how Instagram Story replies work.

In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson said the company is “always listening to feedback” and that “keeping people safe on Twitter is a top priority.” The spokesperson added that fleets are subject to the same rules as other content on the service, including warning labels.

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