Twitter to Remove Images of the Deceased Upon Families’ Request
Article By Yoree Koh, WSJ
Twitter said on Tuesday it will remove images of deceased individuals at the request of family members, a move that comes a week after Robin Williams’s daughter said she is quitting the platform after being sent disturbing photo-shopped images of her father’s death.
“In order to respect the wishes of loved ones, Twitter will remove imagery of deceased individuals in certain circumstances,” said a statement tweeted by Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler on Tuesday.
The statement instructed immediate family members and other authorized individuals who would like to “request the removal of images or video of deceased individuals, from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death” to email [email protected].
The change gives grieving family members a way to scrub the social media outlet of images or videos of their loved ones–whether the content itself breaches Twitter’s rules or not. The new policy is a slight pivot for Twitter, a champion of freedom of speech since its founding and where sensitive content such as nudity and other graphic images have proliferated compared with other social media sites.
Twitter doesn’t allow obscene or pornographic images in user profiles, abusive behavior and threats of violence and the posting of private identifiable information. The company doesn’t actively monitor the half a billion tweets that flood its website and mobile apps for questionable content. Instead, it is up to the users to flag such content, which Twitter will then review.
While its relatively open policy has made Twitter a powerful communication medium, it has also led to plenty of corrosive content and behavior.
This insensitive side of Twitter—though not new—gained widespread attention when Zelda Williams, the daughter of the recently deceased Robin Williams, was harassed on Twitter last week. Williams was reportedly sent fake photo-shopped images of her father’s death and other insulting messages. Williams then said she would no longer use Twitter as well as Instagram and Tumblr. The two Twitter accounts who sent the images were suspended.
In a rare statement responding to the incident, Del Harvey, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, said last week: “We are in the process of evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one. This includes expanding our policies regarding self-harm and private information, and improving support for family members of deceased users.”
The new policy also comes hours after gruesome photos and videos depicting the beheading of an American photojournalist were circulated on the platform. The account that tweeted the images has since been suspended.
Twitter, however, included a caveat on the removal requests. It added that in its review “Twitter considers public interest factors such as the newsworthiness of the content and may not be able to honor every request.”