Will Twitter Censor Images of Riots?

Jack Dorsey has only been gone for one day, and already Twitter has announced a change to its policies that may significantly impair the site’s news value. Twitter has expanded its “private information policy” to ban publication of “media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.”

“Media” would be photos and videos. This means that any video footage or pictures of BLM/Antifa riots, Kyle Rittenhouse exercising his right to self-defense, etc., may now be prohibited on Twitter. The ban is not absolute, however:

We recognize that there are instances where account holders may share images or videos of private individuals in an effort to help someone involved in a crisis situation, such as in the aftermath of a violent event, or as part of a newsworthy event due to public interest value, and this might outweigh the safety risks to a person.

We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service. For instance, we would take into consideration whether the image is publicly available and/or is being covered by mainstream/traditional media (newspapers, TV channels, online news sites), or if a particular image and the accompanying tweet text adds value to the public discourse, is being shared in public interest, or is relevant to the community.

Will Twitter apply this policy even-handedly, or is its real purpose to get rid of Andy Ngo? This language is not reassuring:

The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities. When we receive a report that a Tweet contains unauthorized private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options.

I don’t know why posting photos and videos would disproportionately affect “activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities” unless Twitter intends to prevent users from seeing the reality of the rioting, looting and arson that are carried out by Black Lives Matter and Antifa groups.

Note, too, that one of Twitter’s criteria for censorship is whether the images in question are “being covered by mainstream/traditional media.” This gives Twitter an easy out in some cases; thus, no one need worry about posting images of the January 6 demonstration. It is precisely when the “mainstream” media choose not to publicize violence, like that carried out by Black Lives Matter and Antifa, that Twitter has been a valuable outlet for citizen journalists like Ngo.

Call me paranoid, but I suspect that as this new policy plays out, the effect will be to make Twitter less valuable–or not valuable at all–as a source of information on crime, riots and looting.

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