Twitter has begun testing a feature called Tip Jar that allows users to send money directly to other accounts.

But the feature has been criticised for raising potential ethical concerns and for exposing user information such as email addresses.

The feature, which is initially available only on Twitter’s mobile apps, adds a tipping icon next to a person’s username.

Clicking on it displays a drop-down menu allowing users to select from a range of third-party payment providers, including Paypal, Cash App and Venmo. Twitter said it doesn’t take a cut of the transaction.

Limited rollout

The feature also supports Patreon, used by creators of various kinds, and Bandcamp, widely used by musicians.

All English-language users can begin using the feature immediately to send tips, but the company is initially allowing only certain types of accounts – those of “creators”, experts, journalists and nonprofits – to receive tips.

The company called the feature “an easy way to support the incredible voices that make up the conversation”.

It said the feature was inspired by people who add payment links or Patreon ads when a tweet of theirs becomes popular.

More people will be able to add the feature to their profile “soon”, the company said.

Twitter’s Android app also allows users to send money via the Spaces chat feature.

Exposure

Security expert Rachel Tobac pointed out that users might not be aware that they may be exposing their postal addresses when they send tips on Twitter via PayPal.

“If you send a person a tip using PayPal, when the receiver opens up the receipt from the tip you sent, they get your *address*,” she wrote on Twitter.

Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour said Twitter can’t control how PayPal discloses such information, but said Twitter would make it clear that some details might be shared.

PayPal said the Twitter feature uses its “goods and services” payment option, which shares postal addresses for shipping purposes. People can switch to the “friends and family” option during payment to avoid disclosing the information, the company said.

Ryan Lizza, Politico’s Washington correspondent, noted that the feature could raise “issues” for journalists, who are often banned from accepting gifts.

Ethical concerns

“Should reporters at your favorite pubs and networks be allowed to accept money from anyone on the internet?” Lizza tweeted.

Another reporter writing for a US newspaper replied, “On the other hand… I don’t make a lot of money and it’s a tough world out there.”

Twitter competitor Facebook allows users to send money to one another via Facebook Pay, introduced in Noember 2019. The feature supports Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

But a plan to vastly expand its payments business using a Facebook-backed digital currency called Libra backfired after governments and regulators said the currency could be used for money laundering and posed risks to global financial stability.

Facebook eventually scaled back its Libra plans and renamed the currency “Diem”, but the currency hasn’t yet gone live.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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