Right-wing activists openly “arm” Twitter’s new private media policy

By Brian Fung, CNN Business

Twitter acknowledged on Friday that a new policy it unveiled this week to protect users from harassment is being abused by malicious actors – days after journalists, left-wing activists and self-proclaimed “sedition hunters” took off. reported that their accounts had been locked for public sharing. footage of anti-maskers, anti-vaccine protesters and suspected insurgents from Capitol Hill.

The acknowledgment highlights how Twitter was caught off guard by what it described in a statement as “a significant amount of coordinated and malicious activity” which led to “several errors” in Twitter’s application.

“We have corrected these errors and are undergoing an internal review to ensure this policy is being used as intended – to curb the misuse of media to harass or intimidate individuals,” Twitter said.

Unveiled on Tuesday, Twitter’s new policy prohibits the sharing of images of individuals without their consent. The rule was created, Twitter initially said, with the aim of preventing its platform from being abused to harass and intimidate people, especially women, activists and minorities.

But right-wing groups and anti-mask activists quickly determined that Twitter’s new policy presented an opportunity to strike back against those who might draw attention to their real identities. And within days, they mounted a coordinated campaign to flood Twitter with complaints that left-wing activists, Jan.6 investigators and reporters covering the rallies posted their faces without consent in violation of the new rule.

In January, Samuel Braslow covered an anti-mask protest at a Los Angeles mall for the Beverly Hills Courier, the 56-year-old local newspaper where he is a reporter. During the public event, Braslow tweeted a video of a standoff between anti-masks and a mall official – a common practice in the age of digital reporting.

Braslow couldn’t have known that this week someone would file a report on that same photojournalism and force Twitter to lock down their account. The complaint prevented Braslow from tweeting until he was able to appeal the report or delete the old tweets. He was stuck.

What happened to Braslow is playing out more and more across the Twitterverse as the social media platform’s new politics have become a battleground.

“Due to Twitter’s new privacy policy, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor, as we can more easily delete Antifa f **** t doxxing pages,” read a recent post on the Telegram encrypted messaging app which has been reviewed by CNN. The post, which has been viewed more than 19,000 times, lists dozens of Twitter accounts that supporters can target with allegations of violations under the new privacy policy. Among the targets is Bellingcat, the award-winning investigative journalism firm.

After filing such reports, some people have publicly popular Twitter’s new rule to “arm”. Two articles reviewed by CNN on alternative social media site Gab boasted of posting dozens of reports on Twitter and urging allies to “stay on the offensive” against “antifa” and “their riot videos doxxing “.

The fast-moving campaign shows how a tool meant to help protect vulnerable people quickly evolved to help protect others from the scrutiny that could result from their public actions.

As of Friday morning, several Twitter accounts that follow open source footage of right-wing extremists and Capitol Riot participants had been suspended under private media policy, potentially putting what has become a source at risk. vital information for law enforcement. and federal prosecutors investigating the January 6 insurgency. Sean Beckner-Carmitchel, a videographer from Los Angeles, told CNN his account was locked down due to reports on Twitter involving videos he posted of anti-vaccine rallies and counter-protests in January.

The speed, scale and enthusiasm with which some groups have invoked the policy – along with numerous application errors – have led some experts to conclude that Twitter’s politics are backfiring.

Twitter declined to describe to CNN how the reports were reviewed and which could be processed by humans rather than artificial intelligence.

David Kaye, former United Nations special rapporteur on free speech, said Twitter should go back on its policies and get back to the drawing board.

“On the surface, Twitter’s new ‘privacy policy’ is a failure, well-intentioned (perhaps) but abused and played,” he said. tweeted. “They should be honest – admit it’s not ready for prime time.”

Twitter’s new policy is clearly not taking sides, saying “anyone” can be hurt by non-consensual sharing of images that can lead to emotional or physical harm.

The policy will generally not apply, Twitter said, images of people at public events, such as “large-scale demonstrations” or sporting events. Twitter added that the company would grant exceptions and allow images of people who may “be part of an event of interest due to public interest value.”

But these aspects of Twitter’s own politics appear to have gone unheeded in at least several instances.

“The videos of [my] The posts clearly represent newsworthy content, as they were then picked up for airing by several affiliate stations and national outlets, ”said Braslow, who has previously appeared on CNN to discuss his coverage of the anti-rallies. vaccine.

“It is really important to view the current far-right mass reporting actions as the latest salute in an ongoing concerted effort to eliminate the evidence of their crimes,” said Chad Loder, an anti-fascist activist who said that they use their Twitter account to document instances of far-right extremism and police misconduct.

On Thursday, Loder said they were trapped in a “never-ending cycle” of reports, account lockouts and calls as one of their tweets was flagged under the policy, restored by Twitter to the following a call, then re-reported the same day, resulting in another temporary suspension related to the same tweet. The tweet in question contained a photo of someone taking part in the Jan.6 Capitol uprising, according to Loder.

Ken White, an Los Angeles-based attorney representing Loder who specializes in First Amendment law – and who is perhaps best known to some as his Twitter character, @Popehat – said Twitter has long struggled with the law. abuse of its reporting tools.

“This new policy is even more the same,” he told CNN. “See how it is being used to suppress the very accounts that identified and documented the January 6 thugs. It is impossible that they did not know this would happen, and it is inexplicable that they did not foresee it.

The-CNN-Wire
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