Twitter To Remove Photos Tweeted Without Permission

Twitter is tightening up its privacy information policy with a new set of requirements governing the uploading of media on the platform.

Twitter in a blog post announced that personal media such as photos or videos, must have the consent of the person(s) depicted in it. Failure to provide this consent will result in the removal of the photo or video.

Twitter says the move should better protect “women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities,” but critics argue the ruling is overly broad, and would make posting photos of crowds for example problematic.

Consent needed

Twitter in its blog posting on the matter said it was updating its existing private information policy and expanding its scope to include “private media.”

Twitter’s existing privacy policy already prohibits sharing of other people’s private information such as phone numbers, addresses and IDs.

But it said there are growing concerns about the misuse of media and information that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals.

“Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm,” wrote Twitter. “ The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities. When we receive a report that a Tweet contains unauthorised private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options.”

Twitter said the update to its policy “will allow us to take action on media that is shared without any explicit abusive content, provided it’s posted without the consent of the person depicted.”

The platform said the updated policy will be enforced globally starting Tuesday.

“When private information or media has been shared on Twitter, we need a first-person report or a report from an authorised representative in order to make the determination that the image or video has been shared without their permission,” said the platform.

“When we are notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorised representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, we will remove it,” it added. “This policy is not applicable to media featuring public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

Twitter said it was aware of instances “where account holders may share images or videos of private individuals in an effort to help someone involved in a crisis situation, such as in the aftermath of a violent event, or as part of a newsworthy event due to public interest value, and this might outweigh the safety risks to a person.”

Twitter said it would always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, it may allow the images or videos to remain on the service.

For example, it will consider if the image is “publicly available and/or is being covered by mainstream/traditional media (newspapers, TV channels, online news sites), or if a particular image and the accompanying tweet text adds value to the public discourse, is being shared in public interest, or is relevant to the community.”

Privacy overstep?

But many of the posts accompanying this announcement have been critical of the move, with some saying it would prevent for example uploads of police misbehaviour, pointing out that some police already play music when being filmed so the footage is automatically banned online for copyright reasons.

At the moment, it is not illegal to photograph or take a video in public in the United Kingdom, except for some rare exceptions. If you are on private property (church, government buildings etc) you need to ask permission.

“This is horrible,” noted a user called Favored. “Pictures include random folks, person, etc. in the background or not. You can’t reach out to random folks and ask to post the pic you just took. This is like a State Run CCP type rule. Horrific.”

“This policy is astonishingly vague, badly written, and wide open to abuse,” noted media rights and content protection specialist, Andrew Livingston. “Your pool of moderators does not realistically have enough local knowledge to make the assessments required. What are you thinking here?”

“You do not have enough staff to enforce or review this kind of thing- you can’t even keep people’s accounts from being hacked or help people regain accounts once they are hacked,” noted Angela Dorotheas.

“If it was taken in a public space, how can prohibiting it be legal?” asked Matty Mulls.

One user on the thread, Dave Bob, cleverly just posted a simple photograph of Twitter’s new CEO Parag Agrawal, who has replaced Jack Dorsey, to make his point.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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