Twitter’s new photo policy abused by white nationalists to hide their identities

‘We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors’, Twitter said

Adam Smith
Monday 06 December 2021 17:10 GMT

Twitter mistakenly suspended numerous accounts after right-wing activists took advantage of a change in its photo policy.

The company introduced a new rule that allowed someone whose photo or video was tweeted without consent to request it to be taken down.

Far-right activists and white supremacists quickly began urging followers to file reports against accounts that monitor the actions of neo-Nazis and record those attending hate rallies.

One anti-fascist researcher Gwen Snyder had her account suspended after someone reported a 2019 tweet of her showing a local mayoral candidate alongside the extremist group the Proud Boys.

“Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor as we can take down Antifa … doxing pages more easily,” a white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer wrote to followers on Telegram on Wednesday night, according to the Washington Post. The message was seen over 10,000 times.

Posting a list of 50 Twitter accounts, the user encouraged people to report them for suspension – and achieved success with at least one of the accounts by Thursday.

Snyder deleted the post that was reported because, while she did not believe that she violated any of Twitter’s rules, an appeal process would take too long and was not guaranteed to succeed.

“This week, we expanded our private information policy to include private media of all users on Twitter around the globe in order to offer them the same protections that are afforded to citizens in countries with right to privacy laws. After this was rolled out, we became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors”, Twitter said in a statement to The Independent.

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended — to curb the misuse of media to harass or intimidate private individuals.”

Twitter declined to answer further questions from The Independent about how long such a review would take, or why the company failed to see the advantage that many white nationalists would take immediately.

This is not the first time that Twitter has prematurely released a change without considering wider repercussions. When rolling out Fleets, its version of Stories that was later recalled, it was introduced with a notable lack of security features.

Users were not informed when someone screenshots a fleet, as they are when someone takes similar action on other apps, and users were able to tag accounts that have blocked them without notifying the user.

Twitter declined to comment on the record when asked about its testing methods by The Independent at the time.

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