Twitter bans sharing of private images and videos without consent

Doxxing and sharing private nude images are already covered by the policy.
Doxxing and sharing private nude images are already covered by the policy. Photo credit: Getty Images

Twitter has announced it will no longer allow the sharing of 'private media', such as non-nude photos and videos, without the consent of the person.

The social media platform already prohibits 'doxxing': The act of revealing private information about someone such as phone numbers, addresses and identity documents.

The posting of private nude images of both public and private individuals, meanwhile, are already covered by Twitter's non-consensual nudity policy.

The updated private information policy also includes action against those threatening to expose that private information or incentivising others to do so.

"There are growing concerns about the misuse of media and information that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals," the company wrote in a blog post.

"Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person's privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.

"The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities." 

However images and videos that show people at public events like protests or sports matches would likely not violate the policy, the company said. Public figures aren't covered by the expanded policy either, providing the posting of their images are 'in the public interest'.

"Context matters. Our existing private information policy includes many exceptions in order to enable robust reporting on newsworthy events and conversations that are in the public interest," the company posted on its own platform.

"We will take into consideration whether the image is publicly available and/or is being covered by journalists - or if a particular image and the accompanying tweet text adds value to the public discourse."

The company didn't provide any more detail about who would determine whether it was in the public interest or not.

The person depicted in the photo or video, or an authorised representative, will have to let Twitter know it's been shared without their permission. The company will then remove it.

Reaction on the platform has been mixed, with some welcoming the decision as a step towards greater protection for individuals while others have condemned it as censorship and being anti-free speech.

Evan Greer, director of digital rights organisation Fight For The Future, said she understood where Twitter was coming from but "without more transparency and safeguards this seems like a mess for free expression and civil liberties".

Meanwhile, Benjamin Goggin, the founder of Insider's digital culture team, said it might protect activists but he wasn't completely convinced.

"Considering Twitter's role in protest coverage, from Tahrir Square to BLM protests, this is a massive change that could certainly help protect activists, but could also reduce the 'democratising' effects of social media that Twitter once touted," he wrote.

The announcement comes just a day after co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced his departure from Twitter, with chief technology officer Parag Agrawal becoming his successor.