If you are thinking about leaving Twitter, deleting your account could be a very dangerous move that enables criminals, scammers, trolls, and more to use your good name to spread disinformation, misinformation, or commit fraud.
Nobody expected the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter to be business as usual after the world’s richest person was essentially forced to complete his over-valued purchase of the social network. But the seeming scattergun business decisions that Musk started within days of taking control have shaken Twitter to its core. With thousands of staff sacked or let go, complete departments gutted and questions raised about Twitter’s ability to moderate content or even maintain uptime, ordinary and high-profile members have been quitting in droves. But if you are thinking of joining them, there’s one important thing you should not do: delete your Twitter account.
877,000 Twitter accounts deactivated in just six days
In just six days from 27 October, Statista reports that 877,000 Twitter accounts were deactivated by users.
In just six days.
Mastodon, a federated social network that has been a beneficiary of the Twitter chaos, has seen its membership rise by more than a million users across the last month. It’s tempting if you have had enough of Elon’s shenanigans, to bring the hammer down and join the account deactivation and deletion exodus. But, many experts are warning that this could be a big mistake.
What’s the difference between deactivating and deleting a Twitter account?
Twitter help explains the difference between deactivating and deleting an account as the former being the first step in the process leading, after 30 days, to the latter. After that 30-day window, it also states that “your username will no longer be associated with your account.”
The danger sets in with account deletion as your Twitter username is thrown back in the pool, as it were, and can be grabbed by anyone setting up a new account. Depending upon your threat model, this could lead to impersonation using your name and status for nefarious ends, which is why there has been a multitude of warnings encompassing everything from law firms, privacy and security experts to political analysts and just concerned users, to lock your Twitter account down instead of deleting it.
Twitter Blue muddies the verification waters: lock down, don’t delete
With the Twitter Blue subscription due to return soon, a recognized username, and an $8 blue checkmark that people may still associate with meaningful user verification, the dangers become rather obvious. There’s a mix of paid-for checkmarks whereby the only verification has been someone paying a fee and old checkmarks where the user was vetted to meet specific notoriety criteria before being verified.
OK, so here’s what you should do to lock your account and make it private, protecting your username instead of deactivation and deletion:
Head to your Twitter account settings and support and look for the settings and privacy option.
Select the privacy and safety option, and then audience and tagging.
Finally, flick the protect switch, and you’re all good.
Now your tweets are protected, meaning that only approved followers can see them, and anyone wanting to follow you has to request access. This means it gives you two further options; Firstly, you can block all existing followers and delete all your tweets and direct messages, to delete your account while protecting your good name effectively. Or secondly, you can keep a private Twitter account running and choose who can be part of your network while keeping out everyone else. The latter may feel like it brings you control, but such echo chambers are not really what social media interaction is about. The choice is, at least, yours.