Twitter can turn to bite

Tech Tonic

By Surit Doss
  • Published 20.08.18
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Social activists, journalists and even video game developers receive graphic threats of sexual assault and death on Twitter. Such horror stories abound in India and abroad. So let us not downplay the fact that being on Twitter can be dangerous for people who reach out and advocate their ideas to the public or even just socialise.

To make sure that the wrong people don't follow you, or you don't follow crackpots, you have to do a few things. Your password, that you thought was so clever, can be easily hacked. It is better to opt for two-factor verification that, on Twitter, goes by Login verification.

To set it up, go to www.twitter.com on your computer's browser and click on your profile picture on the top right of the screen. When the menu drops down, go to Settings and privacy. On the right, you will find Login verification under Security. You will need to provide your email address and mobile number. Once that is done, you will receive a code on your mobile number via SMS when you try to log in to Twitter. To activate this on your mobile, tap your icon on Twitter and go to Settings and privacy-Account-Security-Login verification.

Remember, your tweets are public. Everyone can see it. Every one of your tweets shows your name, handle and photo. If you do not want your tweets to be available publicly, go to Settings-Privacy and security and turn on Protect your tweets. Only those followers you approve will be able to see your tweets from now on. A lock will appear next to your name and your tweets will not show up in searches and retweets.

While on the Privacy and safety page, go over the different parameters carefully. Disable your precise location. Sharing your location can be stylish but it can be dangerous too. While you are on a holiday, someone can rob your house. You can also be stalked. Cameras may add metadata to photos you upload. These can be seen with an Exif (Exchangeable image file format) viewer and you will find your location information embedded in your photo. You can strip out geotags by using apps such as deGeo (iOS) or Geo Editor (Android).

For Photo tagging, choose to be tagged only by people you follow. Under Discoverability and contacts, disable both "let others find you by your email" and "let others find you by your phone". You can control how Twitter personalises content and collects and shares certain data. Do not allow anyone to add you to their team. Check either "only allow people you follow to add you to their team" or "do not allow anyone to add you to their team". These settings are on the web version of Twitter.

On Twitter's Settings on the website, go through Personalisation and Data and enable the ones you want. Under Safety, choose to "hide sensitive content" so that they do not appear in search results. Enable "remove blocked and muted accounts".

Make sure to uncheck "receive direct messages from anyone". Above all, do not allow Twitter access to your contacts. Keep personal information to a minimum. Remove the third-party Twitter apps you no longer use or recognise.

Once you are done tweaking your privacy settings, pay attention to other online safety measures. Most tweets use shortened links. These links may lead to dangerous places like phishing sites or rogue sites. Avoid clicking on these. Use a browser extension to know what is hidden behind a shortened link. You may use Unshort.me for Chrome and Unshorten.It! for Firefox. You could also use AVG LinkScanner to check if the link is safe. Stick to Bit.ly as this is a popular link shortening service and does a good job of fighting questionable links.

Above all follow the axiom "never talk to strangers". He or she may be a creep in sheep's clothing. If you are a parent, please follow your children on Twitter. This can ensure that you know whom they are connecting with.