News & Analysis

Twitter Circle Isn’t Really Private

Twitter began testing this feature last August but now it appears that tweets shared for a specific set of people may not be limited to them


Over the years, social media platforms have worked tirelessly on creating communities around shared interests with the likes of “Close Friends” on Instagram or “Circles” on Twitter. Their idea was to create closed communities for an exchange of ideas, fun or anything else that goes to create one – echo chambers be damned! 

Twitter began experimenting with its Circle last August where a tweet could be shared with up to 150 handles chosen by the user. Of course, many questioned the move, given that it removes the last vestige of privacy that a celebrity handle might desire. Of course, to expect a superstar to even acknowledge that she is in your circle would be far fetched. 

However, those problems are no more of relevance as Twitter itself seems to be facing an entirely new challenge with its Circle tweets. A report published by TechCrunch says several users have reported a bug whereby tweets meant for the circle of close friends are actually surfacing on the algorithmically generated For You timeline. 

Confidential tweets aren’t all that confidential

What does it mean? Quite simply that tweets that were supposed to be private may actually be reaching an unintended audience. Whether this results in some unsavory situations or creates embarrassing moments for the person tweeting it, is something that would become clear only depending upon what was the content shared in the Circle tweets. 

The online publication said several users had experienced this glitch firsthand and many had reportedly tweeted about it. It appears as though Circle tweets were surfacing on external timelines of Twitter users, who may follow the person but are not in their circle. There were a few who claimed that circle tweets were even going beyond those who follow them. 

What is Elon Musk thinking all this while?

Of course, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk had issued a caveat well before things went south with Twitter Circle. He admitted on Twitter Space that the initial release could be embarrassing and people are going to find a lot of mistakes, but these would be quickly rectified. The Circle concept has had a buggy ride for several months now. 

Just so that we’re clear about what Circle intends to do, the idea is to have only individuals that one has added to their group to be able to view, reply to or interact with the tweets shared in this particular group. People in one’s Circle would see a green badge under the Tweets sent to that particular community, according to a blog post from the company. However, there are no notifications when someone adds or removes a person from a Circle. Since Twitter doesn’t allow a user to leave a Circle, they need to be blocked by the person who owns it. 

Though the micro-blogging site doesn’t admit it openly, the Circle appears to be a workaround that Twitter has arrived at to stop users from locking their profiles but also allowing some degree of privacy around specific posts. Users in a Circle can’t retweet content from a Circle though they can post a tweet to their public timeline, to their own Circle or another they’re part of. 

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