Twitter Suspended Accounts After Other People Abused a Policy

Twitter logoTwitter posted information on their blog titled: “Expanding our private information policy to include media”, on November 30, 2021. This policy was an update to the previous version, in which publishing other people’s private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs was already not allowed on Twitter.

How did this policy work out? Not very well at all. The Washington Post reported that Twitter said it had mistakenly suspended accounts under the new policy following a flood of “coordinated and malicious reports” targeting anti-extremism researchers and journalists.

Shortly after the rule was announced Tuesday, a group of far-right activists and white supremacists began urging their followers to file reports against accounts that are used to identify neo-Nazis, monitor extremists and document the attendees of hate rallies.

Twitter added a new category to the policy: media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.

Twitter also provided information about sharing private media. Twitter needs a first-person report or a report from an authorized representative in order to make a determination that the image or video has been shared without permission.

According to The Washington Post, Twitter said the rule regarding the takedown of videos and photos was designed to prevent “the misuse of media to harass or intimidate private individuals,” and that it would make exceptions in cases where the photos or videos could add “value to public discourse.”

Twitter should have taken a moment to consider how the updated policy could be intentionally misused before it allowed the policy to take effect. Instead, Twitter learned the hard way what happens when it fails to take into account how malicious people on the platform could abuse a policy that was intended to provide protection.

A Twitter spokesperson told The Washington Post that the company had been overwhelmed with a “significant amount” of malicious reports and that its “enforcement teams made several errors” in the aftermath. The spokesperson did not detail how many reports had been filed, but said that “a dozen erroneous suspensions” had occurred.