Twitter made two recent announcements about changes to the platform, one of which was the launch of their new “Fleets” messaging, which allows users to send a series of short messages (text, images or video clips) that disappear after 24 hours.

Fleets?

Fleets give Twitter users a way of posting an Instagram Stories-like series of temporary tweets to your Twitter followers. They last for 24 hours, and then they’re gone forever. Any fleets created within the same 24 hour period are combined, so when somebody opens a fleet, each individual message plays back, displaying text messages for about 6 seconds before moving to the next one, or up to 30 seconds of video.

The name is based  on the idea of “fleeting thoughts” and is only the latest in a series of efforts by platforms to allow impermanent posts, starting with Snapchat, in 2011. Users can post up to 75 fleets a day, which will be displayed sequentially to recipients, but Twitter subsequently announced that due to performance and stability issues, they would slow down the roll-out.

Harassment Potential

However, many Twitter users and online rights groups have raised concerns regarding the potential for harassment etc. that disappearing tweets will have, given Twitter already has a reputation for unpleasant exchanges between people, and it also turned out that some users were able to send fleets, even though the recipient had disabled the receipt of Direct Messages.

Twitter reported that they were working on the issues with privacy, but it is unclear whether anything can be done about harassment, given that the disappearing messages will theoretically leave no evidence. (No public evidence anyway, Twitter may well be able to keep logs etc.)

Verification System Rebooted

In another surprise, Twitter also announced that their sometimes controversial user verification system will be making a return early next year, and has solicited feedback from users over what the requirements should be.

Lacking a “real name” policy like Facebook does, up until 2017, Twitter allowed users who met certain criteria to verify their accounts, obtaining a coveted blue tick that confirmed their identity, but their policies around the practice were always quite vague, and over time, the tick came to be interpreted by users as an endorsement by Twitter, leading to backlash when verifying, for example, known white supremacists.

When they shut the service down in 2017, Twitter said, “Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it.”

Who Gets Verified?

Although a final policy is expected to be released by 17 December, the draft requirements, pending user feedback, so far specify the following types of accounts that will be eligible (with more perhaps to come later):

  • Government
  • Companies, Brands and Non-Profits
  • News
  • Entertainment
  • Sport
  • Activists, Organisers & Influential Individuals

Accounts will have to be active, notable, and associated with a prominently recognised individual or brand.

Currently Verified Accounts

Accounts which already have the verification tick will, for the most part, be keeping them as long as they are still active, but Twitter did say that it may remove ticks from accounts which are dormant, or which repeatedly break the rules. This could mean that Donald Trump, who (it has already been confirmed) will lose his protected “world leader” Twitter privileges in January on the inauguration of his replacement, and who has already had a large number of tweets flagged for rule breaking, may lose the coveted verification tick as well.