How to Not Protect Your Users

“User is tweeting pictures of my infant repeatedly as part of an intimidation campaign and that’s ok?”

If a stalker or troll decides to use your own personal photos to harass you, you must first decide how to report. One option is “someone is posting private information”, which encompasses personal details as well as photos. The second is harassment. If you visit the page for reporting private information, copyrighted material is a prominent subsection, with a link out to the relevant copyright claims forms.

“The man who stole the photo has been stalking me on your platform for months.”

Fast forward to the present: on May 13th 2016, this group of longtime harassers began to tweet yet another of my photos into harassment hashtags, alongside memes and links to YouTube videos that they’d made. After the baby pic experience, I simultaneously filed DMCA takedowns and abuse reports. I clearly and unambiguously used the word “stalker” in the complaint section, and referenced the long prior history of harassment, suspensions, etc. And again, I didn’t file against the (huge quantity of) harassment materials I didn’t own.

“Twitter emailed me her contact info.” “Which pic did she complain about? I’ve got a lot of pics up.”

A few days later, my stalkers began to publicly gloat about Twitter sending them my private information. They began to tweet the version of the pic that I’d uploaded as evidence to Dropbox, then posted the Dropbox link to Reddit and other sites, claiming I was a public figure trying to “suppress their voice” in an effort to incite even more harassment. I emailed Twitter Abuse immediately — what is this about? What did you send them?

“Hope is not a strategy.” — analyst downgrade

Twitter must fix this. Its brand is increasingly defined by excessive harassment. Growth is suffering; no quarterly earnings call happens without someone referencing the ‘troll problem’. The company’s notorious inability to handle harassment as harassment, and the flow of its own reporting systems, guarantees that users who just want to stop their private photos from being misused will use that takedown form. And when they do, they are unknowingly, inadvertently sending their information out to terrible people.



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Renee DiResta

Renee DiResta

I work in tech, and occasionally write about the intersection of tech + policy.