Recent shake-ups may have caused Twitter users to consider packing their bags. So Prof Daniel Angus and Dr Timothy Graham outline how you can go about leaving the platform safely.
After a few chaotic weeks, it’s clear Elon Musk is intent on taking Twitter in a direction that’s at odds with the prevailing cultures of the diverse users who call it home.
Musk has now begun reinstating high-profile users – including Donald Trump and Kanye West – who had been removed for repeated violations of community standards.
This comes off the back of a mass exodus of Twitter staff, including thousands that Musk unceremoniously fired via email. The latest wave of resignations came after an ultimatum from Musk: employees would have to face “extremely hardcore” working conditions (to fix the mess Musk created).
With so many experienced staff leaving, users face the very real possibility that Twitter will experience significant and widespread outages in the coming weeks. Aside from the site going dark, there are also risks user data could be breached in a cyberattack while the usual defences are down.
Misinformation is also on the rise. Following Musk’s swift changes to blue tick verification, the site tumbled into chaos with a surge of parody accounts and misleading tweets. In response, he issued yet another stream-of-consciousness policy edict to remedy the previous ones.
All of this points to a very different experience for users, who are now decamping the platform and heading to alternatives like Mastodon.
If this sounds like a recipe for disaster and you want out, what should you do?
Pack your bags
First, you may want to download an archive of your Twitter activity. This can be done by clicking through to Settings > Settings and Support > Settings and Privacy > Your Account > Download an archive of your data.
It can take several days for Twitter to compile and send you this archive. And it can be up to several gigabytes, depending on your level of activity.
Lock the door
While waiting for your archive, you can begin to protect your account. If your account was public, now might be a good time to switch it to protected.
In protected mode, your tweets will no longer be searchable off the platform. Only your existing followers will see them on the platform.
If you’re planning to replace Twitter with another platform, you may wish to signal this in your bio by including a notice and your new username. But before you do this, consider whether you might have problematic followers who will try to follow you across.
Once you have downloaded your Twitter archive, you can choose to selectively delete any tweets from the platform as you wish. One of our colleagues, Philip Mai, has developed a free tool to help with this step.
It’s also important to consider any direct messages (DMs) you have on the platform. These are more cumbersome and problematic to remove, but also likely to be more sensitive.
You will have to remove each DM conversation individually, by clicking to the right of the conversation thread and selecting ‘Delete conversation’. Note that this only deletes it from your side. Every other member of a DM thread can still see your historic activity.
Park your account
For many users it’s advisable to ‘park’ their account, rather than completely deactivate it. Parking means you clean out most of your data, maintain your username, and will have to log in every few months to keep it alive on the platform. This will prevent other (perhaps malicious) users from taking your deactivated username and impersonating you.
Parking means Twitter will retain some details, including potentially sensitive data such as your phone number and other bio information you’ve stored. It also means a return to the platform isn’t out of the question, should circumstances improve.
If you do decide to deactivate, know that this doesn’t mean all your details are necessarily wiped from Twitter’s servers. In its terms of service, Twitter notes it may retain some user information after account deactivation. Also, once your account is gone, your old username is up for grabs.
Reinforce the locks
If you haven’t already, now is the time to engage two-factor authentication on your Twitter account. You can do this by clicking Settings > Security and account access > Security > Two-factor authentication. This will help protect your account from being hacked.
Additional password protection (found in the same menu above) is also a good idea, as is changing your password to something that is different to any other password you use online.
Once that’s done, all that’s left is to sit back and pour one out for the bird site.
Prof Daniel Angus is professor of digital communication and Dr Timothy Graham is associate professor in digital media, both at Queensland University of Technology in Australia.
10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.