A violent video posted by terrorist group ISIS spread across social media Tuesday night. It depicts the beheading of a man the group claims is American photojournalist James Foley, who has been missing since 2012.
The video and screenshots from it were particularly prevalent on Twitter. Late Tuesday, Twitter announced a new policy:
In order to respect the wishes of loved ones, Twitter will remove imagery of deceased individuals in certain circumstances. Immediate family members and other authorized individuals may request the removal of images or video of deceased individuals, from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death, by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twitter has reportedly been suspending users who have posted violent images from ISIL’s video, which has led some observers to wonder whether news sources that posted photos would be punished, too.
— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) August 20, 2014
Twitter’s statement includes this caveat, however: “When reviewing such media removal requests, Twitter considers public interest factors such as the newsworthiness of the content and may not be able to honor every request.”
Twitter’s announcement comes a week after Zelda Williams, the daughter of actor Robin Williams, tweeted that she was leaving the network after users tweeted manipulated photos of her father after his suicide, directed at her.
Twitter Vice President of Trust and Safety Del Harvey promised then that Twitter would expand “our policies regarding self-harm and private information, and [improve]support for family members of deceased users.”