Intended to fight against online harassment, Twitter's new regulations concerning images and videos are conversely used by the American far right to protect themselves and harass their opponents, according to activists and experts.
Twitter decreed on Tuesday that users (excluding public figures) could request that photos or videos in which they appear, published without their consent, be removed from the social network.
However, the company admitted on Friday that the implementation of this measure had been difficult.
We have been made aware of a significant number of malicious and coordinated reports, and unfortunately our teams have made several mistakes,
" Twitter told AFP.
We have rectified these errors and we are carrying out an internal investigation to ensure that this regulation is used as it should be,
" added the firm to the blue bird.
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This type of problem, many anti-racist activists had anticipated when the new policy was announced. Their fears were quickly confirmed, with researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a message the far right had circulated on Telegram: “
Anyone with a Twitter account should report doxxing (a practice of revealing private information about someone, Editor's note) from the following accounts
," the message said, along with a list of dozens of identifiers.
Gwen Snyder, activist and researcher in Philadelphia, had her account blocked this week, as a result of a report linked to a series of photos published in 2019, showing a local politician during a protest organized by the far-right group Proud Boys.
Rather than appealing to Twitter, she preferred to delete the photos and speak publicly about what had happened.
The fact that Twitter eliminates (my) work from its platform is incredibly dangerous, and will favor and encourage the fascists,
" she lamented to AFP.
"Twitter gave extremists a new weapon"
To justify its new policy, Twitter had stressed that "
sharing personal content, such as images or videos
" could "
violate a person's privacy, and cause emotional or physical harm
." But this rule does not apply to “
” or when “
the content accompanying the tweets is shared in the general interest or brings added value to the public debate
Twitter's new policy was announced the day after Parag Agrawal took over as head of Twitter to replace co-founder Jack Dorsey.
For experts, if it is based on good intentions, it is extremely difficult to implement.
In part because the platform has become essential in the identification of people linked to the extreme right, Internet users improvising detectives and publishing their names or information allowing them to be identified.
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” cost some of those targeted their jobs, sometimes exposing them to legal action, while the activists who published the data were themselves threatened or harassed. After the assault on Capitol Hill on January 6, in which thousands of Donald Trump's supporters tried to prevent elected officials from certifying Joe Biden's victory, those involved were the subject of intense research on the internet .
Even the US federal police regularly publish images of unidentified people wanted for their connection to the violence.
According to Michael Breen, chairman of Human Rights First, "
Twitter has given extremists a new weapon to harm those most in need of protection and who bring the danger to light
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