Twitter accused of privacy breaches as engineers ‘read’ DMs

Twitter is now finished with a several week process updating rules to curb abuse on the platform — but now the platform is refuting several undercover videos by Project Veritas trying to point fingers at the network.

On January 16, Twitter shared a statement on the latest video that suggests Twitter engineers access private direct messages, calling the project “deceptive”.

The video in question appears to be an undercover project where Project Veritas members recorded Twitter engineers — without their knowledge — while in a bar. In the video, the Twitter employees mention a machine learning system that goes through both Tweets and direct messages, while according to the video, some staff members go through the messages flagged by the machines.

The video was the third recent dig from the organization directed at Twitter, and the platform called the videos “deceptive” and “selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative.” In a statement on the direct message video, Twitter said, “We do not proactively review DMs. Period. A limited number of employees have access to such information, for legitimate work purposes, and we enforce strict access protocols for those employees.”

Twitter says the employees in the video were not speaking on behalf of Twitter at the time. Twitter’s Privacy Policy says that for direct messages, “we will store and process your communications, and information related to them.”

The video comes after another report on Twitter’s shadow-banning, and another undercover video where a Twitter engineer says they’d happily hand over President Donald Trump’s data for an investigation. Twitter also refuted both earlier videos.

While a number of individuals are using the recent videos against the platform, others are looking deeper into Project Veritas — an organization run by conservative James O’Keefe that also tried to get the Washington Post to publish fake news against a political candidate. As Twitter’s new rules result in more users getting banned from the platform, some groups aren’t happy with the switch from a platform that was previously more open, saying the changes create more bias.

Twitter, however, isn’t the only one calling the organization’s tactics deceptive. Wired suggests that the videos are part of the inevitable backlash from the new rules designed to combat abuse and eliminate hate groups and hate speech from the platform, suggesting the rules have the “alt-right” groups mad over the removal of some accounts. The video also comes after a handful of lawsuits filed against Twitter, including a complaint from one user that lost Twitter access after a post threatening to “take out” a civil rights activist. While the lawsuit is recent, the account ban happened three years ago.

The videos factor into a larger discussion as Twitter strengthens policies against abuse, and multiple social media networks struggle against fake news and now removing extremist content. No matter what side of the conversation you fall on, the “legitimate work purposes” access is a nice reminder that the internet isn’t the best place for the most private conversations.

By Hillary Grigonis for Digital Trends

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