In a crackdown on gory and upsetting images, Twitter has announced a new policy where it will remove photos or video of dead people if close family members or other authorised individuals request such a removal.
The policy update comes as pictures and video circulated on Twitter after the beheading of US journalist James Foley, and a week after Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda, abandoned Twitter in response to gruesome images of her late father that were tweeted to her.
In a post on a support page at the site, the social media company said that immediate family members and other authorised individuals could request the removal of images or videos of deceased individuals, “from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death”, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When reviewing removal requests, Twitter said it would consider public interest factors such as the newsworthiness of the content, and warned it might not be able to honour every request.
Zelda Williams said she was shaking after she was sent a mortuary photograph said to show her father’s body, which was actually a picture taken several years ago of another man who died from asphyxiation and bore a passing resemblance to the actor.
In response to the incident, Twitter blocked a pair of accounts that sent many of the images and said it would actively look to improve its policies to handle tragic situations.
“We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter,” Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety, said in a statement to The Washington Post.
“We have suspended a number of accounts related to this issue for violating our rules and 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.”
On Tuesday, following the murder of Foley by an Islamic State militant, the White House contacted social networks asking them to remove videos and images of his death.
Twitter declined to say whether it had also had a request from Foley’s family.