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Twitter’s rules against harassment are again drawing the ire of users who accuse the social media site of engaging in censorship.
The latest row comes from Splinter, a news and opinion site owned by Gizmodo Media Group, that Wednesday tweeted out a story with the headline, “Here’s Stephen Miller’s Cell Phone Number, If You Need It.” The story includes a phone number Splinter says will put you in touch with Miller, the purported architect of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which until Wednesday separated children from their parents when they cross US borders illegally.
The policy has resulted in the US government sending thousands of children to holding camps around the country, images of which have sparked international outrage, even from within President Donald Trump’s own party. The tech community been especially vocal with its criticism of the policy. (Bowing to the widespread pressure, Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that reverses the separation policy.)
Not long after Splinter tweeted out the story, Twitter users who retweeted the original tweet found their accounts were being suspended for violating the Twitter’s rules against posting private information. But some users complained their accounts were being locked not for posting the private information but rather for pointing to a site that held the information.
Twitter pointed out in a statement Wednesday that its rules prohibit publishing other people’s private information without their permission, adding that “directly linking to that information” also violates Twitter’s rules.
“Today, we temporarily blocked accounts that shared this information until they deleted the Tweet that violated our rules,” a Twitter spokesman said in a statement. “At this time, the number that was previously being shared is no longer a valid number and, as such, we are no longer enforcing our policy against individuals Tweeting or linking to that information.”
Twitter’s rules say users “may not publish or post other people’s private information without their express authorization and permission.” The rationale, Twitter explains, is that the publishing someone’s private information online for all to see may pose a serious safety and security risk to that individual. Even if the information has already been posted elsewhere on the internet, Twitter can remove the tweets in question if it believes the intention might be to harass an individual.
Protecting individuals’ safety is also the rational behind the Twitter’s recently enacted rules on abusive behavior, which among other things, prohibits promoting violence. Yet the company has come under repeated criticism for how it handles abusive behavior on the site, particularly in relation to how it deals with tweets from President Donald Trump.
Many have wondered why some of his tweets aren’t being deleted by the social media platform, despite their apparent violation of Twitter’s rules. One particular tweet in October was interpreted by many as a threat of violence against North Korea’s leadership. Twitter acknowledged that Trump’s tweet had caused an uproar but said it was allowed to stay because of its “ .”
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