Twitter announced Tuesday that it “will require the removal of tweets posted by government or state-affiliated media accounts” if they contain images or videos depicting prisoners of war from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The company also said it would “drastically” reduce the chances of people seeing posts from Russian government accounts.
In his most recent updates to a publication detailing how the company is responding to the conflict, Twitter says this decision is aimed at ensuring its platform is not used to spread content that violates the Geneva Conventions, one of which requires prisoners of war to be protected against “acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.” This comes after the Ukrainian government has been criticized for publishing images of dead soldiers, as well as videos of captured soldiers being interrogated.
We are doing this in accordance with international humanitarian law and in consultation with international human rights groups. To protect essential reporting on war, some exceptions apply under this guidance when there is compelling public interest or newsworthy POW content.
— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) April 5, 2022
While Twitter will ask government accounts to remove media showing POWs, there will be some exceptions for “POW content of compelling public interest or newsworthy,” according to Twitter. a thread by Twitter site integrity chief Yeol Roth. Depending on the post, users will see a “warning interstitial” if a post is allowed to remain active. The company also says that content displaying PoW that is “shared with abusive intent” (eg, teasing or threatening) by anyone will be removed.
Governments sharing media representing prisoners of war is a controversial issue, especially in a conflict where one side is a clear aggressor. What Board points out, the videos of POWs posted by Ukrainian government accounts can be seen as sympathetic: they seem to suggest that their government has lied to some Russian soldiers and that they too are suffering from the invasion. Some, as malcolm nancya commentator on terrorism and torture, has acknowledged that the images may violate international law, but says it is acceptable in this case.
Others disagree. Board spoke to Adil Haque, a law professor and legal ethicist, about the media releases, arguing that context was not particularly important in this type of conflict. “Even if a particular instance of a POW recording may seem harmless, especially if they are actually being portrayed sympathetically, the idea is that we need a broad ban so that we don’t have to debate it on a case-by-case basis. basis whether it is a good or bad subjection to public curiosity, ”he told the publication. In other words, the conventions should be used as a general policy.
TO article written by Gordon Risius and Michael Meyer (pdf), as part of the Red Cross international review, argues that there could be other downsides to governments sharing POW assets. It says that governments could use the media against prisoners or their families and that the images can be staged, making it hard to trust them as evidence of humane treatment (especially when taken explicitly for the general public to see). ). public).
This debate is not new. Risius and Meyer’s Red Cross paper was written in the 1990s after the Gulf War and argues that the Geneva Conventions need to be updated for the media age. (The article on protection against insults and public curiosity has existed for almost a century.) There was also debates around what the media could show during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Time twitter says its new rules allow “essential reporting,” it sides firmly with not allowing states to share images of prisoners of war.
In addition to its POW rules, Twitter is de facto hiding Russian government accounts by removing them from follow-up recommendations and ensuring they are not “amplified” on people’s timelines or Explore and Search pages. . Roth says in his tweet thread that this action will be taken against any “state that limits access to free information and is engaged in interstate armed conflict.”
What does this mean?
We won’t recommend these accounts and we won’t expand them on the home timeline, explore, search, and elsewhere on Twitter. This measure drastically reduces the chance that people on Twitter will see Tweets from these accounts unless they follow them.
— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) April 5, 2022
twitter post He explains the rationale behind the decision by saying that a government that blocks citizens’ access to a service while continuing to post on it creates a “serious information imbalance.” Early in the invasion, Russia restricted how citizens could access Twitter and then completely blocked Instagram. Roth clarifies that Twitter will apply these rules even if it is not among the banned platforms in a country.