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In a nutshell: Twitter is changing its policy on sharing private information of individuals to include pictures or videos. It already bans tweets containing someone's phone number, email address, real name, etc. The inclusion of media is a small addition to the rule, but it does exclude public figures in most cases.
On Tuesday, Twitter announced that it is expanding its private information policy to include pictures and video. The social media platform already prohibits tweets that dox individuals or contain hateful messages. Its new rules will ban users from posting any media of private individuals without their consent.
"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," Twitter Safety notes. "Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person's privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm."
Twitter believes that sharing private media has a "disproportionate effect" on particular groups, including women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.
Beginning today, we will not allow the sharing of private media, such as images or videos of private individuals without their consent. Publishing people's private info is also prohibited under the policy, as is threatening or incentivizing others to do so.https://t.co/7EXvXdwegG— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) November 30, 2021
Enforcement may seem to be an issue, but the media ban is only an extension of its existing framework, according to Twitter. Regardless of whether the tweet contains someone's personal information, like address or phone number, or a video or image of the person, someone first has to report it to Twitter. Then a moderator will review the tweet to be sure the tweet violates the rules. Twitter will remove the content if it goes against any of its guidelines, including the expanded private information policy.
However, the media ban applies differently to public figures.
"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," the announcement reads. "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."
Twitter stressed that reports are assessed on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to being automated. There may be instances where sharing media of an individual may be permitted if it is related to a newsworthy event or is in the public interest. For example, an image found in mainstream or traditional media may be allowed. Likewise, amateur pictures of something like an apartment fire that incidentally capture someone in-frame may be considered appropriate.