Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Can You Delete DMs on Twitter?

According to a web security researcher, Twitter has a "functional bug" that effectively retains the direct messages (aka DMs) that users send, even after a user deletes those messages, or even their whole account.

The so-called bug has been raising some rather loud criticism of the platform, which at one point allowed users to effectively "unsend" direct messages by deleting them, though that feature has since been removed. Twitter has not provided any details, but did state that it was looking into this issue. Notably though, the researcher stated that he notified Twitter over a year ago, and nothing has changed.

The Internet Is Forever

The issues that tech writers seem to be up in arms about involve privacy and GDPR compliance. Curiously though, the researcher explained that the data is only available to the individual user who sent the message.

However, none seem to grasp that once a DM is sent to another user, the platform must show that message in two places, the sender's and the recipient's log. If the sender deletes their log, or their account, then the recipient should not be locked out of seeing their own conversation. And the text of the GDPR even contemplates this sort of issue and limits an individual's "right of erasure" and "right to be forgotten" if there are legitimate third-party interests.

Twitter's own policies state:

"When you delete a Direct Message or conversation (sent or received), it is deleted from your account only. Others in the conversation will still be able to see Direct Messages or conversations that you have deleted. When you delete a group conversation, you will leave that group and will no longer be able to participate."

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