Twitter is in chaos. Elon Musk, its new owner, has decimated its workforce, giving those who remain an ultimatum this week – work grueling hours and be “extremely hardcore” or go. Hundreds chose the latter and headed for the door.
There are already signs that the exodus is straining the system. Some users have encountered problems receiving text messages to sign in using two-step verification. Test pages pop up in the wild. Some users are seeing a renewed spam spam in Direct Messages and their feed, while others complain that they are getting new replies to long-deleted tweets and saved draft tweets are disappearing. Still, the bird side chugs on.
Twitter won’t just shut down overnight. However, security experts warn that the drastic job cuts could open the door to scammers who exploit the platform’s vulnerabilities and compromise user accounts.
While there’s not much you can do about Musk’s impromptu teardown of one of the world’s most important online information ecosystems, there are steps to protecting your account if, like millions of other Twitter users, you’re not ready to fly in the coop in search of one Alternative.
Enable multi-factor authentication
Especially now, if you’re just using your username and password to log into Twitter, it’s important to add an extra step to the process to make it harder for hackers to access your account.
Twitter has three methods to choose from: text message, an authenticator app, or a security key. As there have been a few glitches where users did not receive text messages to authenticate their accounts, and as this is widely considered to be more secure, using the authenticator app is probably your best bet.
To do this, you need to download one of several available applications to your device. They are available for free in the Apple or Android app stores and some examples are Google or Microsoft Authenticator, Authy, Duo Mobile and 1Password.
Once you have the app, open the desktop version of Twitter and click the icon with ellipses in a circle. There you will find “Settings and privacy”, then “Security and account access” and finally “Security”. Here you can select “Authenticator App” and follow the instructions to set it up. Twitter will prompt you to provide your email address if you have not already done so.
Once you’re done, you can use your authenticator app’s auto-generated numeric codes to add an extra layer of security when logging into Twitter.
Stop third-party access
Jane Manchun Wong, an independent Hong Kong software and security researcher who follows Twitter closely, recommends revoking permissions for third-party websites and apps through your Twitter account.
Because if there’s a potential security issue with Twitter’s API (or application programming interface that allows third parties to access Twitter data, for example to build apps that work with Twitter), when fewer people work at the company, it will inevitably take longer to fix it.
To disable this feature, launch the Security and Account Access tool and go to Apps and Sessions. This is where you should find any third-party apps associated with your Twitter account — including some you may have linked years ago that no longer exist — and you can revoke access to each one.
Download your archive
For the nostalgic, for the researcher, or for the digital hoarder among us, the prospect of losing a decade or more of our Tweet history is catastrophic. But no fear. It may take some time, but you can download your Twitter “archive” if you want to make sure it’s preserved – just in case.
Like other more complex features, this tool is only available in the desktop version of Twitter in the “Your Account” section of the settings. You’ll need to re-enter your password and go through two-factor authentication if you’ve set it up. When your archive is ready to download, you will receive a notification on Twitter. Again, you need to download it on the desktop version of the site. While this process usually takes around 24 hours, it can now take longer. Some users have also reported that they had to try more than once.
Keep the list of your followers
Although there is no perfect replacement for Twitter – and of course Twitter is still here! – Many users, especially in the fields of journalism, technology and science, are signing up to Mastodon, a previously little-known platform launched in 2016.
Mastodon is a decentralized social network. That means it’s not owned by a single company or billionaire. Rather, it consists of a network of servers, each running independently but able to connect, allowing people on different servers to communicate.
Signing up can be complicated — you have to choose a “server” to join, but whichever you choose, you can still communicate with people on other servers, much like you email people from your Gmail account. Can send mails even if you are on Outlook or another mail server.
Once in, you can go to fedifinder.glitch.me and find your twitter followers or twitter lists, which you may need to see if they also have mastodon accounts. Many Twitter users also list other social networks and content information in their bios, or even Twitter display names, so people can connect with them — just in case.