Has Twitter Gone Censorship Mad?

Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

Twitter has recently changed its terms and conditions in the last few days and the latest update to it could prove problematic to everyone who uses the platform.

The new Terms and Conditions now state that you are not permitted to post any image or video of someone without their explicit consent.

You can only publish a picture or video to the platform if the person is a public figure or a major public event with multiple people.

The official reason for this is because they want to protect the privacy of individuals and stop “doxxing” on the platform of women, minority groups and so on.
However, the unofficial reason is that very recently JK Rowling put in a complaint that several Trans activists stood taking photos outside her house and posting them to Twitter to let everyone know where she lived without actually breaking the old rules of posting her actual address.
The fact that JK Rowling's house is publicly marked on Google Maps as a tourist attraction, and she has shared the details of where she lives in magazine articles was irrelevant to her, as she claimed these images were done to harass and threaten harm or abuse.

And days afterwards, and just like that, suddenly Twitter is putting a stop to this kind of image and videos appearing on the platform.

But people are not happy and are concerned that bad behaviour such as posting dangerous people (usually on the run from authorities) could go unnoticed if people cannot post their image.
Missing Persons are another area where people fear that unless they get permission to post a child’s image from the parents, that their efforts to raise awareness with the child photo could result in the do-gooder receiving a temporary ban from Twitter.

So are Twitter right to up the censorship game by banning images of people without their consent?
Will this actually work when it comes to tackling online harm and abuse which is their official reason for doing this?
Or is this a new form of censorship where a private company like Twitter can manipulate and control all information that is publicly available?
And while it is understandable that public domain images be permitted, why is there a rule that public figures are excluded from the ban and people can upload images of a person without their consent just because they happen to be famous?

While the idea of this new update may be good-intentioned to stop more harm being done by Trolls to celebrities, the reality is that malicious people are actually going to reverse their approach to trolling and start to cancel or censor people instead of doxxing them.
For example, what is to stop someone from reporting every image you post that has anyone else in the image, such as a selfie with a best friend, or child’s birthday party, or a video of friends at a BBQ.

And then there is the latest trend we have seen in the past few years, of recording Police brutality.
Would anyone dare publish a video of a Police Officer tasering a child, or shooting a black person now because the whistleblower will be banned from social media for publishing it?
Would all the citizens who stood on the sidewalk filming Derek Chauvin kill George Floyd now be banned if they posted their footage to Twitter?
Kyle Rittenhouse may have been found guilty had a lot of the footage of that night not been shared on social media.

And is the whole idea of having a blanket ban on everyone, rather than targeting those who maliciously use the platform for harm, not unfair to everyone that is acting responsibly on it?
It reminds me of my school days when one person would act stupid in class and the teacher would punish the entire class for that one person's actions.

Why is Twitter not tackling the real issue with their platform and online abuse from trolls, by adding in a verification system that applies to all users and not just celebrities?
Imagine Twitter if you could only Read and Like tweets if you are unverified, but could tweet and comment if you are verified with a real Photo ID provided to Twitter?
Would trolls have much effect on the platform if they were anonymous and unable to do more than read or Like the content?
And would the verified users, who can be identified by Twitter/Authorities for any online abuse, be more likely to stick to the terms and conditions?

At the end of the day, the reason Social Media is such an acidic and hurtful place at times is the way that anyone can sign up as an anonymous person, and when you are a mystery person hiding behind a screen, it is so tempting to be a little bit naughty!

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store