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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twitter’s new photo permission policy was aimed at tackling online abuse, but U.S. activists and researchers said on Friday that far-right supporters used it to protect themselves from exams and harass their opponents.
Even the social network admitted that the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to remove images of themselves posted without their consent, has been marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own mistakes. .
These were exactly the kinds of issues anti-racism advocates feared after the policy was announced this week.
“Anyone with a Twitter account should report doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the post said, along with a list of dozens of Twitter nicknames.
Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a Twitter report on a series of photos from 2019 showing, she said, a local political candidate during a march organized by the Group of far right Proud Boys.
Rather than appealing to Twitter, she opted to remove the footage and alert others to what was going on.
“Twitter which wants to eliminate (my) work from its platform is incredibly dangerous and will enable and embolden the fascists,” she told AFP.
But the rules do not apply to “public figures or individuals where media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”
Twitter noted that the deployment had been difficult on Friday: “We have seen a significant number of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately our enforcement teams have made several mistakes. “
“We have corrected these errors and are undergoing an internal review to ensure this policy is being used as intended,” the company added.
However, Los Angeles-based activist and researcher Chad Loder said his account was permanently blocked after reports on Twitter of publicly recorded footage of an anti-vaccine rally and confrontation outside a man’s home. former Vice reporter.
“Twitter says I need to delete my tweets containing pictures of people at newsworthy public events that have actually received media coverage, otherwise I will never get my account back,” Loder told the AFP, adding that this was the third report of their account on Twitter in 48 hours.
“The current far-right mass reporting actions are just the latest salute in an ongoing concerted effort to find evidence of their crimes and misdeeds in the blackout,” Loder added, using a term popularized by George Orwell’s 1984 dystopian novel.
Experts have noted that Twitter’s new rules sound like a well-meaning idea, but are incredibly tricky to enforce.
One reason is that the platform has become a key forum for identifying people involved in far-right and hate groups, with internet sleuths posting their names or other identifying information.
The practice of so-called “doxxing” has cost targets their jobs, exposed them to intense public ridicule and even criminal prosecution, while activists who publish the information have themselves been threatened or harassed.
A major example was the online effort to trace those implicated in the violence on the United States Capitol, which was stormed in January by supporters of Donald Trump seeking to block certification of the president’s victory. Joe Biden.
Even the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation regularly posts images of as yet unknown people it searches for in connection with the violence.
“Twitter has given extremists a new weapon to harm those most in need of protection and those who bring danger to light,” said Michael Breen, chief executive officer of the rights group Human Rights First , who called on Twitter to end the politics. .
The new rules, announced just a day after Parag Agrawal took over from co-founder Jack Dorsey as boss, venture into issues that may be out of the platform’s control.
“It gets complicated quickly, but these are issues that are likely to be resolved in our courts,” said Betsy Page Sigman, professor emeritus at Georgetown University. “I’m not optimistic about the changes to Twitter.”