For example, a message asking people to "share and watch" a clip could be a spambot. But it could also be a protester -- maybe one like those in Ferguson, Mo. -- asking people to spread awareness about a crime.
"We don't want to gamble on potentially silencing that crucial speech by classifying it as spam and suspending it," she said. "That means we evaluate hundreds of parameters when looking at account behaviors, and even then, we can still get it wrong and have to reevaluate."
(The full talk is 10 minutes long, but lays out the basics of Twitter's philosophy pretty well.)
Even with graphic, disturbing and violent images, Harvey said, there are a lot of gray areas. And, as my Switch colleague Brian Fung pointed out, there is no industry standard. Each company makes its own rules based on how it wants to shape its community. Facebook and Instagram, for example, have rules against nudity in photos. Twitter has no such rules -- a decision that it's made as a company to live by its assertion that, in nearly all cases, the "tweets must flow."
While companies continue to debate what they can and should do at the administrative level to stop certain kinds of images, there are some things that individual users can do to take action on their own accounts. On Facebook, for example, you can block users, apps or pages if you don't want to see the content they publish.
Twitter offers users the option to change their media settings themselves. Here, if users want to see images that could be considered "sensitive" and skip seeing Twitter's warning message, they can opt to do so. Users can also decide to mark their own media as sensitive by default, if they think their pictures could upset others.
When asked why it took the images down, Twitter said it does not share information on specific cases. But it did refer reporters to its policies regarding takedown requests from the family members of deceased users. That indicates that the firm took down the photos and videos of Foley's death not because of a request from the U.S. government--which reached out to social media sites regarding the video on Tuesday--but because the family had asked it to, shortly after the news broke.
The policy, recently changed, outlines the guidelines Twitter follows to remove imagery of deceased individuals at the request of immediate family members -- a policy enacted after some Twitter users bullied the daughter of comedian Robin Williams off the network by sending her altered images supposedly depicting her father's corpse.
How does Twitter scrub its network of the offensive images, which tend to spread online very quickly? The process is actually low-tech. When a request is submitted, Twitter employees on the company's safety and legal teams look at the image that's been flagged, reviewing each one individually, and evaluating the public interest and newsworthiness of each message. That, for example, could explain why some images of Foley's death were taken down immediately, while others bore a warning:
It may seem incomprehensible to many users that in an age of algorithms and high technology, Twitter would remove offensive images by hand rather than by automation. Twitter and other companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google all have and use an automated technology that lets them identify and flag images based on certain criteria.
One of the top authors of The Peet Journal is Pete McGea. As a native born Scotsman, Pete
Editor in Chief
As Editor in chief I manage and oversee the content produced for publications or websites. This includes reviewing all content produced, such as articles and photographs, developing strategies and style guidelines, and representing the brand at social events throughout the year. I work in an office-based environment and typically work full time, although they may be required to work additional hours, particularly around deadlines. I have a strong business acumen, excellent writing and proofreading skills, networking and interpersonal skills, and the ability to guide a team towards business goals. By the way, my name is Lora Smith.