Twitter expands privacy policy to include media posted without consent

1 Dec 2021

Image: © Lakee MNP/

Photos and videos featuring individuals posted without consent will be removed, in a new policy that has been described by some as hard to implement.

Twitter is further strengthening its privacy policy by extending it to include pictures or videos of individuals taken and posted without their consent – even if they were taken in public.

This takes Twitter’s stance on privacy a step further from US laws, which do not prohibit taking pictures or videos of people in public spaces. However, Twitter told the New York Times that the new rule is consistent with privacy laws in the EU.

Sharing private information of individuals, such as addresses and phone numbers, is already prohibited under Twitter’s privacy policy and the inclusion of media adds a new dimension to the social platform’s stance on privacy.

Twitter said that the policy update will help curb the “misuse of media” to harass, intimidate and reveal the identities of private individuals, which “disproportionately impacts women, activists, dissidents and members of minority communities”.

However, images or videos of individuals participating in large-scale public events such as protests and sporting events will not be removed. Media featuring public figures such as politicians and actors is also not applicable for removal if shared in public interest.

If media featuring public figures is shared with the intention to harass, intimidate or silence them, Twitter may remove the content under its policy against abusive behaviour. Similarly, nude images or videos shared without consent will be taken down.

“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,” Twitter wrote in a blog, adding it would consider keeping media that is publicly available or is being covered in the news.

Twitter clarified that it would only consider removing media if affected individuals file a report indicating which image has been shared without their permission. When notified, Twitter will review the image before making a decision.

The new privacy policy is bold move that has been criticised by some as difficult to implement. Matthew Cortland, a lawyer based in Washington DC, took to Twitter to highlight the complexities of determining how to gather consent for large groups.

“If I take a picture of a rally at the US Capitol, a rally of disabled folks advocating for home and community based care, do I have to go from person to person and get them to sign a release?” he tweeted. “If I take a photo of people sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, same Q?”

Twitter has been working on making its platform a safer space for users. In September, the company began trialling a new ‘soft block’ feature that would allow users to remove followers without blocking them. It also announced a Safety Mode feature that will temporarily block accounts that it deems to be sending offensive, hurtful or repetitive messages.

This week has marked a major reshuffle in Twitter’s upper echelons of leadership. Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down, paving the way for former CTO Parag Agrawal to take in the reins. Bret Taylor, the new co-CEO of Salesforce, was also appointed chair of Twitter’s board.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic