Updated Twitter Policy Targets Shared Images of Private Individuals with Reasonable Expectation of Privacy


Twitter has expanded restrictions included in the existing private information policy to include certain types of images. Specifically, “media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.”

There is important information in the private information policy that helps clarify what type of images are prohibited or allowed.

Where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in an individual piece of media, we (Twitter policy writers) believe they should be able to determine whether or not it is shared. CARDINAL NEWS believes this is important because people standing on a sidewalk probably cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they are briefly captured in a video or captured in a still photograph as a bystander at a news scene. Video that follows a person along a sidewalk while they are walking or while they are entering a particular establishment could probably be interpreted as a violation of Twitter privacy policy.

For media, the following are not in violation of our policy:

the media is publicly available or is being covered by mainstream media;

the media and the accompanying tweet text add value to the public discourse or are shared in public interest;

contains eyewitness accounts or on the ground reports from developing events;

the subject of the media is a public figure.

— Twitter

In cases of media that focuses on a particular individual visible in public, the difficulty will be guessing how Twitter will judge whether an image adds value to public discourse.

In general, CARDINAL NEWS will avoid providing photos of non-public individuals on the Twitter timeline, and this is probably aligned with existing CARDINAL NEWS policy. For example CARDINAL NEWS recently blurred the license plate of a vehicle parked in the driveway at the scene of a house fire. However, CARDINAL NEWS would probably not blur the license plates of vehicles parked in front of a commercial building fire.

CARDINAL NEWS policies may require a little tweaking, and there is some concern that CARDINAL NEWS could be falsely accused of violating Twitter policies. It is important for readers to note that this type of technocracy pressure from Twitter can affect the editorial judgment of CARDINAL NEWS regarding how news is presented or what images are published or how they are published. Certainly some individuals, standing as bystanders at a news event, will make false claims that their image is not allowed on the Twitter timeline. These type of false claims have already occurred over the years, and the new Twitter policy updated today, will probably exacerbate the issues involved in public photography and videography at news events.

CARDINAL NEWS will be watching to see if sharing images of suspicious people or suspects on security videos becomes an issue with Twitter’s privacy policy.

The use of photos to help locate missing persons may also become an issue in some cases; however, Twitter’s policy states that the company “recognize(s) that there are 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.”

Hopefully, Twitter will simply delete the images they believe violate their private information policy and not suspend or terminate accounts that have posted images that violate Twitter’s policy.

The update to the private information policy was revealed today, Tuesday, November 30, 2021 in a Twitter blog post. Following is the Twitter Safety blog entry published today …

Expanding our private information policy to include media

By Twitter Safety
Tuesday, 30 November 2021
As part of our ongoing efforts to build tools with privacy and security at the core, we’re updating our existing private information policy and expanding its scope to include “private media.” Under our existing policy, publishing other people’s private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter. This includes threatening to expose private information or incentivizing others to do so.

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. 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 unauthorized private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options.

While our existing policies and Twitter Rules cover explicit instances of abusive behavior, this update 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. This is a part of our ongoing work to align our safety policies with human rights standards, and it will be enforced globally starting today.

What is in violation of this policy?
Under our private information policy, you can’t share the following types of private information or media, without the permission of the person who it belongs to:

• home address or physical location information, including street addresses, GPS coordinates or other identifying information related to locations that are considered private;

• identity documents, including government-issued IDs and social security or other national identity numbers – note: we may make limited exceptions in regions where this information is not considered to be private;

• contact information, including non-public personal phone numbers or email addresses;

• financial account information, including bank account and credit card details; and

• other private information, including biometric data or medical records.

NEW: media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.

The following behaviors are also not permitted:

• threatening to publicly expose someone’s private information;

• sharing information that would enable individuals to hack or gain access to someone’s private information without their consent,e.g., sharing sign-in credentials for online banking services;

• asking for or offering a bounty or financial reward in exchange for posting someone’s private information;

• asking for a bounty or financial reward in exchange for not posting someone’s private information, sometimes referred to as blackmail.

When private information or media has been shared on Twitter, we need a first-person report or a report from an authorized representative in order to make the determination that the image or video has been shared without their permission. Learn more about reporting on Twitter.

Sharing private media
When we are notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorized representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, we will remove it. 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.

However, if the purpose of the dissemination of private images of public figures or individuals who are part of public conversations is to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence them, we may remove the content in line with our policy against abusive behavior. Similarly, private nude images of public individuals will continue to be actioned under our non-consensual nudity policy.

We recognize that there are 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.

We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service. For instance, we would take into consideration whether 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.

Feeling safe on Twitter is different for everyone, and our teams are constantly working to understand and address these needs. We know our work will never be done, and we will continue to invest in making our product and policies more robust and transparent to continue to earn the trust of the people using our service.



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