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Twitter may remove private images shared without consent under new policy

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Twitter said Tuesday it will ban private images shared without consent, with some exceptions, including images in the public interest, amid growing concerns about online harassment.

The social media giant introduced the new ban as an expansion of its private information policy, which already bans sharing information related to a private individual's identity documents, such as government-issued IDs, and location information.

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The ban will not apply to tweets featuring public figures or tweets that are "shared in the public interest or add value to the public discourse," according to an official Twitter Safety blog on the expansion of the policy.

"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 Twitter Safety blog said. "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 disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities."

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Though Twitter can now take down unauthorized use of private images used to harass people when it receives a report from the person whose image was used, it also elaborated on some exceptions.

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"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," the blog said.

In particular, Twitter will look at whether the image is being covered by mainstream, traditional media sites, as part of determining whether or not it should be removed, according to the blog.

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Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy urged people not to speculate on how this will affect future posts, The Verge reported.

"We're going to evaluate things in the context in which they're shared, so I would encourage folks not to draw too many conclusions from past instances or hypotheticals," Kennedy told The Verge. "The general rule around our private information policy is that if this is available and easily accessible off of Twitter, we're not going to take action on it on Twitter."

On Monday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, 45, announced his resignation, and Parag Agrawal, who has served as the company's chief technology officer since 2017, replaced him as CEO.

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Last week, a new study found social media was linked to increased risk for depression.

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