Earlier this week, Twitter co-founder and longstanding CEO Jack Dorsey announced his decision to step down in favor of Parag Agrawal, who had previously served as the company’s chief technical officer.
Twitter then announced a new policy regarding what people are permitted to post on the social media platform less than a day later — a move that was widely criticized and left many users wondering whether it would have a significant impact on the utility of the social media platform as it is currently configured.
So, here’s what happened. Twitter stated Tuesday morning that it was revising its “private information policy” to reflect that users would no longer be able to share “media of private persons without the consent of the person(s) portrayed.” The company made the announcement in a statement on its corporate blog.
“Media” seems to refer to pictures, videos, and other images of persons who do not want to have their images broadcast on Twitter.
As hundreds of Twitter users have pointed out, however, if this new restriction is applied strictly, many photographs that have gone popular on Twitter and even caused important social change over the previous several years may likely have been barred from the platform:
So what you're saying is we won't be able to share video online that might include circumstances like the murder of Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd because it's "private," but led to the arrest and conviction of the men who murdered them? Is that what you're saying?
— THEE Side-eye Pinkie Pie 💛🐝 (@NYSnarkyMommie) November 30, 2021
Sooo….. under this policy, the FBI would not have had the ability to search for January 6 people on here…. local law enforcement can't post images of criminals they're searching for… and missing children's images can't be posted to help find them… got it.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) November 30, 2021
What does this even mean? You can’t share a meme? You can share a video of a car crash? You can’t reshare someone’s video with commentary without their ok? Insanity.
— Carol Roth (@caroljsroth) November 30, 2021
A few hours after the first @TwitterSafety announcement, Twitter launched an extra five-tweet thread intended to “unpack” the new policy that had been announced earlier that morning. In addition, Twitter requested that users visit the company’s 800-word blog post announcing the move and read it in its entirety.
Even though I’m not a lawyer, I’ve become very good at deciphering complicated legal papers such as contracts and terms of service in order to figure out what they truly imply.
One issue that I believe may have hampered Twitter’s efforts in this case is that its new policy uses the same term, “media,” to refer to two very distinct entities, which I believe is problematic (albeit with different adjectives in front of it).
If Twitter’s new rules are followed, “mainstream/traditional media” users may post certain “private media” on the social media platform that non-media users may not post unless that particular “private media” was also posted by “mainstream/traditional media” users, according to the company.
It’s possible that there is a silver lining to this, because based on my reading of the policy and Twitter’s “unpacking,” many of the things Twitter users are concerned about — “media” that, in Twitter’s words, “add value to the public discourse” or “contain eyewitness accounts or on-the-ground reports from developing events” — would most likely continue to be allowed.
Maybe. Probably. At least, that’s what I think to be the case. Twitter is given a tremendous leeway in how it conducts itself under the terms of the policy.
Although Twitter is a non-governmental entity that may impose whatever rules it wants regarding content (or none at all), I feel that the fact that there is now a written document that people can refer to and discuss is a positive step forward.
Regardless, let us return to the main point, which is that it is Day 2 of the Agrawal era at Twitter, and we are on the 22nd paragraph of this article, and yet this is only the second time the new CEO’s name has even been mentioned in this story, which is about the largest daily kerfuffle at Twitter….
The following three conclusions might be drawn from this: first, it’s probable that Agrawal made a big policy splash with users right from the start, and then walked away from it afterwards. Second, it’s probable that he was completely unaware that the amendments to the “private information policy” would spark such a flurry of public anger and condemnation. Alternatively, it is plausible that those in control of policy simply failed to tell the new boss of what they meant to say today.
Any of these options would intrigue to experiment with for a short period. No matter how quickly the current crisis passes, life continues as normal, and users continue to publish exactly what they did before it enacted the new policy, it is an intriguing approach to take control of one of the world’s most influential social media companies.
Finally, let us share an image shot by Agrawal of Dorsey and himself, which he published to Twitter yesterday, just around the time when @TwitterSafety issued its statements.
I’m certain that this one will be OK under the new regulations.
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) November 30, 2021
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