Twitter has long banned the publication of users’ private information without their consent, a logical response to the very real harms of doxxing. Toward the end of last year, it extended that ban to include photos of private individuals—another seemingly logical move, but one that had immediate destructive effects.
Far-right trolls quickly weaponized the new policy, poring through past tweets from the large, informal network of researchers who use Twitter to fight violent white supremacy and counting on Twitter’s automated moderation to suspend accounts they flagged for violations, whether the material was truly objectionable or not.
My account was one of those taken down in the chaotic early days after the change was introduced, when someone reported a thread I’d written in 2019 about local Philadelphia Republican officials and candidates marching at a Proud Boys event. (A company representative later told The Washington Post that “our teams took enforcement action in error.”) For Twitter, the moment was just another embarrassing chapter in its long history of bungled attempts at curbing the influence of bad actors on its platform. But for anti-racist researchers like me, the new policy marked yet another frightening setback.