On Monday (April 20), Twitter announced the latest changes to its direct-messaging feature. As word (mistakenly) began to spread that the social network would allow users to DM even those who weren't following them on the site, panic ensued. Some feared the change could makes users more susceptible to harassment.
But the Twitter update may not be as nefarious as it seems. For one thing, a user can choose to activate a feature on her security and privacy page that allows her to receive messages from anyone on Twitter -- whether she follows them or not. And it's a personal choice. Prior to this, users could only DM each other if they followed each other.
To further clarify, the latest update is in "off" mode by default; the user has to check off a box in order to activate it on the security and privacy page.
Should you choose to use the feature, it opens you up to a new world of interaction, which is nuanced (such is life -- *sigh*). On one hand, it allows for you to talk to more people in a more private way. However, since a user is opening her profile up in a more public way, the risk for trolling could also increase.
Whatever your choice is, just remember to be smart and take no sh-t from people who harass you. You can learn more about how to do that here, on Twitter's help center.
And please, don't freak out. We're here for you.