As of November 30, 2021, effective immediately, Twitter’s new CEO, Parag Agrawal put into place a new ban surrounding posting photos and/or videos of people without their consent. The ban, according to Agrawal, was put in place as part of part of its efforts to “to align our safety policies with human rights standards.” The company already had a policy against the sharing of others’ private information, including addresses, financial data and phone numbers (doxxing).
How does this work? Twitter said to enforce the new policy, it will require a “first-person report of the photo/video in question (or from an authorized representative). “After we receive a report, that particular media will be reviewed before any enforcement action is taken,” the company said.
What images and video does it effect? The policy does not apply “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.” It’s not clear who decides what’s in the public interest or what adds value to the public discourse.
According to Twitter, this policy update will help curb the misuse of media to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of private individuals, which disproportionately impacts women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.
The concern by conservatives is this will bring more censorship to the platform, citing the ban on former President Trump’s account and suspended former Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Mark Morgan for tweeting favorably about the border wall. Conservatives have noted they would rather have folks posting unfavorable photos of them, rather than see the ban stay in place. Though we’ve seen how that goes, when Trump became upset about unflattering photos of him shared online and insisted people stop sharing them.
For the people this is supposed to protect, it can feel like a win. There's been an uptick in images and video shared without consent. There are entire accounts dedicated to sharing this type of content. In this situation, it’s distributing free content that may otherwise be behind paywalls. It’s one thing to share someone’s content they’ve put out in the open, it’s something completely different to post content such as this without consent. In the age of revenge porn/photos, a move like this by Twitter has more benefits than detriments, at least on the surface. Only time will tell how it’s used in practice, rather than theory.