October 15, 2013, 3:54 PM — If you keep a close eye on your Twitter settings--and who doesn't, really?--you probably noticed a new option pop up Monday night: "Receive direct messages from any follower."
Twitter is quietly rolling out a new opt-in feature that lets anyone DM you. In the past, people could only message you privately if you followed them and they followed you. The new setting, first noticed by business marketer Jim Connolly, is turned off by default, but you can turn it on by checking a box.
The tool is particularly useful for journalists who regularly need to message people they don't know. The DM lockdown made it difficult to reach out to strangers on back channels.
Not everyone is pleased about the change, though. After Connolly tweeted about the new setting, a flood of followers responded with a common complaint: Spam. Not that the new feature is encouraging spam--it's still too soon to tell--but spammers who can message anyone will likely take advantage.
This isn't the first time Twitter has experimented with the settings on direct messages. In 2011, Twitter gave a "limited number of accounts" the ability to see DMs from people they don't follow. At the time, it was thought that the feature was rolled out to all verified accounts, but that turned out to be false.
Twitter hasn't said why they added the new feature. If you turn it the setting on and notice it's being abused by bots, then just turn it right back off.