In a tweet sent out shortly after 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said that accounts caught posting grisly images related to the execution of journalist James Foley would be suspended. This is the right thing to do.
When a video apparently showing Foley being executed by operatives claiming to be from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, surfaced online yesterday afternoon, violent and gory photos soon began spreading throughout the social network, leaving users little recourse. On Wednesday morning, the New York Post splashed a graphic photo of Foley on its cover, bearing the headline “SAVAGES.” The Post‘s Twitter account has not been taken offline. (Warning: It’s graphic.)
Compared to Facebook or Instagram, Twitter is liberal about the kinds of content it allows its users to post–porn, newscasts, etc. On the other hand, its safety mechanisms for taking down content are terribly inefficient; the service has been criticized for allowing accounts to post copyrighted images without proper attribution or credit before.
In this case, Twitter should be applauded for swiftly imposing rules to keep its newsfeed from becoming the next 4chan. It also announced that it would allow relatives of a deceased person to request that his or her Twitter account be deactivated.
On Facebook, Foley’s mother, Diane, posted a message confirming his death, saying, “We have never been prouder of our son Jim.”