Twitter Mistakenly Suspends Users as Extremists Abuse New Image Rules

Twitter logo behind smartphone

It did not take long for bad actors to abuse Twitter’s new image rules, and the social media company has confirmed it mistakenly suspended multiple accounts from false reports generated by “far-right” extremists.

On November 30, Twitter published an update to its private information policy that specifically banned the publication of photos and videos (defined as media) of private individuals without their permission.

“Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm,” the company wrote at the time. “The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”

New policies like this are prime for exploitation, and that appears to have been exactly what happened. Twitter told the Washington Post that it mistakenly suspended the accounts of 12 journalists and anti-extremism researchers after what are described as “far-right” activists and white supremacists sent a “coordinated and malicious” set of false reports in what was likely an attempt to silence their opinions. Twitter did not specify how many reports it received, but that it was a “significant amount.”

Twitter says it has already reversed many of the mistaken suspensions and is taking steps to ensure that its new policy and the actions taken as a result of it are working as intended. Engadget reports that while the full volume of false reports will be made available at a later date, some of the targets of the false reports were still mistakenly banned at the time of the Washington Post’s publication.

While Twitter says it is reviewing its policy, it is clear that there are kinks to work out. A major concern surrounding the new rule involves enforcement, which would be nearly impossible to do site-wide and would require a robust checking system to assure all claims are legitimate. Obviously, such a system was not implemented.

The addition of the new policy happened shortly after Twitter’s long-time CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down from the role and the company’s former CTO Parag Agrawal replaced him. Agrawal has made several notable changes in quick order since taking over the helm at the social media company, including a promise that he would reorganize top leadership in a move that saw two key executives depart.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.