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Twitter will remove tweets, images of deceased under new policy

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Perhaps spurred on by the proliferation of vile and disturbing images posted on Twitter relating to the deaths of Robin Williams, Ferguson, Missouri resident Michael Brown and most recently, the apparent execution of American photo journalist James Foley, Twitter will now accept and act on requests from family members and other authorized individuals to have images or videos of deceased individuals removed from Twitter.

For example, Robin William's daughter, Zelda Williams, left Twitter after receiving a series of gruesome images of her father and accusations she was responsible for his death from Twitter trolls.

"Mining our accounts for photos of dad, or judging me on the number of them is cruel and unnecessary," she wrote on Twitter before suspending her account "for a good long time, maybe forever."

Graphic images relating to the shooting death of Missouri resident Michael Brown, and of the resulting unrest there, are being used to gin up fury on both sides of the issue.

Videos and images of the execution of James Foley at the hands of ISIS in Iraq have also filled the network, appealing only to the ghoulish and morbidly voyeuristic while contributing to the grief and suffering of Foley's family and friends.

In some of these cases, Twitter responded to complaints by suspending the accounts of purveyors of these images. To date, they have not established a policy on blocking or deleting accounts of those who retweet offending materials.

In Foley's case, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo notified Twitter users "We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery."

What Twitter has done is to revamp its policy on such matters; in a statement posted in Twitter's Help Center, the company writes, "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 email to privacy@twitter.com."

This is followed by a disclaimer, 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 already has a policy in place that allows for individuals to request the deactivation of a deceased user's account, a process that requires a prodigious amount of information and processing.

A larger issue on both Twitter and the web in general is the incivility and abuse directed at Twitter accounts, particularly those of women. According to a study from the University of Maryland, the average female chat room user is besieged with up to a hundred sexually explicit or threatening messages per day, while the average man receives less than four.

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