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Twitter Hits Back Again at Claims That Its Employees Monitor Direct Messages (techcrunch.com) 162

From a report on TechCrunch: Twitter is pushing back against claims made by conservative activist group Project Veritas that its employees monitor private user data, including direct messages. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a Twitter representative 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." Last week, Project Veritas, which produces undercover sting operations that purportedly expose liberal biases at media companies and other organizations, posted footage that appeared to show Twitter engineers claiming that teams of employees look at users' private data. One engineer seemed to say that Twitter can hand over President Donald Trump's data, including deleted tweets and direct messages, to the Department of Justice.
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Twitter Hits Back Again at Claims That Its Employees Monitor Direct Messages

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  • Is the data on their servers? Do they have access to their own servers? Ergo, they have Trump's toots and could hand them over.

    I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that anybody is shocked about this.

    • Re:No shit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @11:02AM (#55938379)

      Veritas is a master of the obvious truth hidden in plain sight. Of course folks at Twitter filter stuff...

      The issue here though is by what standard they filter? Personally I don't care what Twitter does but the fools who are on the video explaining their personal bias presumably used in their filtering of Twitter feeds do make Twitter look bad in the eyes of some.

      What we have here is a PR war with Veritas, which generally doesn't work out well for Veritas' targets. We are in full damage control mode by Twitter while Veritas sits back with who knows what kind of additional footage to prove anything Twitter's PR department puts out to fix this is a lie. My advice to Twitter is to shut up, make sure these folks on the video don't actually do what they claim and let it run it's course. It will pass in 2 weeks or less if you shut up.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        This isn't a "PR war". It's a disclosure. It's cluing the rubes into what the implications of all of this are. A lot of them don't get it. They aren't informed enough to consent to the anal cavity search you seem so fond of.

        It doesn't even matter if the interviews are real or not.

        People don't realize that they have to consider this in terms of the worst case scenario. That's the problem with ALL of this. This is why device manufacturers have started to lock down their devices more.

        They left things open and

        • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

          by tbannist ( 230135 )

          This isn't a "PR war". It's a disclosure. It's cluing the rubes into what the implications of all of this are. A lot of them don't get it. They aren't informed enough to consent to the anal cavity search you seem so fond of.

          No, it's not. It's just unethical propagandists engaged in scaremongering to try and trick people into voting for Republicans.

          It's the same scaremongering editing they used in their previous videos where they take things out of context and play scary music to make it seem sinister.

          Of course, if you believe them the last tie they tricked you, you'll probably believe them this time too.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by BlueStrat ( 756137 )

            It's the same scaremongering editing they used in their previous videos...

            Since the full unedited videos were also posted, I'm sure you can point out precisely where and how they were "deceptively edited"....right?

            [crickets]

            Strat

          • " It's just unethical propagandists engaged in scaremongering . . ."

            But when it's your side doing it, it's A-okay, right? I see a ton of it from BOTH sides, but only one side gets villified by the press and slashdot. Wonder why that is . . . .
            • But when it's your side doing it, it's A-okay, right?

              My "side" is truth and reason. I don't know what side you think I am on, but I don't appreciate anyone trying to manipulate me.

              I see a ton of it from BOTH sides, but only one side gets villified by the press and slashdot. Wonder why that is . . . .

              You are apparently talking about American politics, ever bother to actually check if one side is more truthful than the other? I did and it's why I am no longer a conservative.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Veritas is a bullshit factory, and media reporting on them as if there's any doubt to that does the public a great disservice.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        If the story has legs then Twitter will sue, get the unedited footage and take them to the cleaners.

        That's what usually happens with Veritas stuff, the full story comes out and it becomes clear that the video was carefully edited to give a false impression. If it wasn't they would simply post the unedited footage for all to see, and not put cuts in the middle of sentences etc.

        • LOL.. You do realize that Veritas always posts all their video, unedited, for all to see. No need to sue them to get the video.

          Also, Twitter can sue for anything they want of course, but I doubt they have any grounds here. Unless Veritas has been out faking video recordings by scripting them, hiring actors and recording them, Twitter has no case. If they DO sue, you can bet Veritas will mount a vigorous defense and the PR they gain from the whole process will be gold. Can you imagine it? Getting to dep

    • Is the data on their servers? Do they have access to their own servers?

      Which is yet again an example of why you should only use end-to-end encryption for personal communications.
      Everything else will eventually get read.

      • by Sneeka2 ( 782894 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @11:09AM (#55938439)

        If anyone thinks any communication on Twitter or Facebook or anything like it is private in this sense, they need to reevaluate their head.

        • Technically speaking, if you use a decent end-to-end encryption,
          e.g.: using Pidgin/Adium, using OTR encryption plugin [cypherpunks.ca], and using one of the libpurple plugins [github.com] (you need a plugin using Facebook's JSON API, as they've shut down their XMPP Gateway)

          then there isn't that much that Facebook can spy.

          They can see that you *are* chatting. They can see *whom* you're chatting, and that's about it.
          Given that you use OTR, they might deduce you're probably more on the nerd/geek side of things,
          but it's near(*) impossible f

          • by Sneeka2 ( 782894 )

            Sure, it’s perfectly technically possible to create an end-to-end encrypted chat service. But you’re a fool if you think Twitter and co. are doing any of that implicitly, when their entire shtick is public message exchange. And even DMs are just "Direct", nobody said anything about Private.

            • But you’re a fool if you think Twitter and co. are doing any of that implicitly, when their entire shtick is public message exchange.

              Twitter's entire business is built around public broadcasting of short messages (micro-blogging), so indeed, one would not expect them to care implementing secure private messaging, "direct messages" are more an after-though bolted-on.

              But, all the other actors : Microsoft's Skype, Google's Talk/Hangout/whatever they'll call it in the next beta cycle. Facebook's Messenger, Facebook's WhatsApp... are all about direct message between people, about having one-to-one conversations.

              Of them, only WhatsApp (and to

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        End to brand encryption does not work as the brand has the keys too.
    • "Ergo, they have Trump's toots and could hand them over."

      Are you saying they monitor all the stable geniuses only?

  • Doubling down when they've been caught red-handed is not a wining strategy in this case.

    • Doesn't lose them anything either.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 )

      Twitter has already lost this.. They need to shut up and let Veritas take their short lived victory lap... They are in a no win situation, not knowing what other video Veritas has and can release to counter what ever PR spin they try. Best to let the story die a natural death...

      The only exception to this is if they KNOW more video is on it's way, in which case, they are playing a game of chicken with an opponent who has nothing to lose. Personally, unless the damage coming is dire and you know it, it's b

  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @10:45AM (#55938247)

    a Twitter representative 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."

    Which would still be 100% true if they just sent it all to the government. Just saying.

  • Hold on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Orgasmatron ( 8103 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @10:47AM (#55938257)

    Project Veritas doesn't make claims. They secretly film other people making claims. In this case, it is 8 or 9 Twitter employees (some of them apparently not junior flunkies) claiming that they can and do read your private messages.

    • Project Veritas doesn't make claims. They secretly film other people making claims. In this case, it is 8 or 9 Twitter employees (some of them apparently not junior flunkies) claiming that they can and do read your private messages.

      Precisely. "How dare you quote me!"

  • Have they also pushed back against claims arising from video of an employee suggesting that there is politically motivated shadow banning?
  • Veritas means truth. In that context, it is worth keeping in mind that this is James O'Keefe who runs it, a man who has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to edit videos and take anything out of context http://www.cracked.com/article_20369_5-major-news-stories-that-forgot-to-tell-you-best-part.html [cracked.com] https://www.npr.org/2011/03/14/134525412/Segments-Of-NPR-Gotcha-Video-Taken-Out-Of-Context [npr.org] are two detailed examples. This is a man who literally lied about who he was as part of an attempt to bug a US Senat
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Stupidest post of the day

      Evidence has its own credibility completely separate from its source. You judge evidence on its own quality. Any other metric is political gerrymandering.

      • The validity of an argument is in general independent of its source. Evidence is not- in particular, if a source of evidence has shown a pattern of lying and taking things out of context, that's something that should be taken into account. Or are you arguing that if you knew someone who lied repeatedly you wouldn't be more skeptical when they tell a story than when a friend who hasn't been caught lying does?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @10:53AM (#55938295)

      Project Veritas releases the unedited raw videos of all of their undercover operations. Critics like yourself can only point to the ACORN videos from 7 years ago and shoot the messenger rather than debate any of the content at hand. Which parts of the Twitter videos were edited?

    • Debate fail (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Can't refute the videos he posted, could you?
      So you attack the person who put them up.

      I guess you failed in debating because I just called you out on your piss poor debating ability.
      Looks like liberals are perfectly comfortable with censorship, reading private messages, and other crap Twitter does. Instead of attacking Twitter for being unethical, they attack the person who pointed it out with PROOF.

      Good job letting us know liberals don't care about civil liberties.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      The anonymous cowards are out to get you, so you just might be on to something...

    • This. His clever resourcefulness is exceeded only by his mendacity.

    • he always posts full unedited videos as well. not everyone wants to watch 4 hours of babble for 3 minutes of dirt though.

      they have tried many times to tear him down and skirt the issues. take for example his abortion videos. no one can (or does)dispute that they do in fact sell dead baby body parts. but everyone attacks him for other reasons in an attept to ignore those harsh truths.
  • ... doesn't have any technology that compares with Twitter DM, so there's no real choice, is there?

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2018 @10:54AM (#55938309)

    One engineer seemed to say that Twitter can hand over President Donald Trump's data, including deleted tweets and direct messages, to the Department of Justice.

    All that says is that Twitter stores the data, not that they are reading it. I see no problem there. Also, shouldn't Trump tweets be considered official correspondence and statements from the administration (I believe the White House has even stated this at some points) and therefore be illegal for Trump to delete anyway?

    • by gnick ( 1211984 )

      ...shouldn't Trump tweets be... illegal for Trump to delete anyway?

      My understanding is that there's a requirement that a copy be saved, but not necessarily ON Twitter. All of his Tweets are being preserved whether he deletes them or not. Saying that Twitter can recover those Tweets seems silly since I assume there are several complete archives. If CNN doesn't have one I'd be shocked. If the DOJ doesn't, I'd be disappointed and concerned.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Also note that when asked to access PMs they said that there is a legal process (subpoena) for that.

  • They do expose such biases, full stop.
  • Some DMs are probably being watched, subject to the delivery of a National Security Letter. Some Twitter employees probably do have access to message contents in order to set this up. Although I'd imagine that they just pipe them straight to the applicable TLA that requested them most of the time.

    claims made by conservative activist group Project Veritas

    If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. And it's your side that keeps renewing these surveillance acts anyway. So why are you surprised?

    • I have no idea what Twitter does internally, but we do know what they *should* do. There should be an audit log with tamper protection which means that employees who have reason to access data can do so, but they know that their actions are logged and if the access is improper they will be terminated. This means somebody has to monitor the logs and they have to have actual policy enforcement. If they are lax in any of these areas than there very well may be the equivalent of unfettered access.
  • There doesn't seem to be anything suspicious in the video. One guy admits to DMs being analysed by software, one guy admits to reviewing reported DMs and Tweets, one guy admits to tracking cookies, one guy admits to being able to fire (or even sue) members of staff for violating privacy rules. It's full of quick-cuts, of statements without context, with dubious edits in the middle of sentences. This is hardly a smoking gun.

  • Veritas' true gift is that of gullibility. Are the people being interviewed allowing themselves to be entrapped? Or do they have to manipulate the results to have you believe it? Either way, it is useless and requires them to have the outcome of their "investigation" before it starts.

  • "A limited number of employees have access to such information, for legitimate work purposes."
    They employ Anita Sarkeesian, no I am not joking.
  • Seriously, the single most important thing protecting my privacy is that it isn't worth paying someone even minimum wage to monitor my boring conversations... and by the way, I have 3 Google Home Assistants and 2 Amazon Echo Shows always listening in my house, so it would be trivially easy to "bug" me.
  • If Project Veritas is saying someone is doing something, they are doing the opposite. Their SOP is to secretly record someone then take what they say out of context or otherwise edit the recording to make them appear to say what PV wants them to say.

  • Twitter does NOT monitor direct messages, except for those people at Twitter who do exactly that. Is that about right? "We don't watch what you do other than the group tasked with watching what you do". So Twitter - when did you stop beating your wife?
  • This is obviously a clear contradiction to what Twitter employees said and said spontaneously.

    This has some serious ramifications. This could easily be misused by Twitter and/or Twitter employees to create a portfolio that could be used to blackmail so many, many that had no idea and trusted their personal communications to Twitter. Obviously we have all been told to not put on the internet what we don't want in the public, however that is just us geeks talking to each other. As far as other people go th

  • don't care. Come at me bro!

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