Twitter is tightening its policies on harassment and graphic imagery following the deaths of Robin Williams and U.S. journalist James Foley, who was reportedly beheaded by jihadis in Syria. On Tuesday, the company stated it will now remove certain images of deceased individuals at the family's request.
Twitter announced its clarified guidelines on images of deceased Twitter users soon after graphic images reportedly depicted Foley's beheading by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began circulating on the social media site. Twitter quickly deleted the images as they circulated and suspended many of accounts that were sharing them. Some of the accounts however, were reportedly reinstated.
Deleting images at the request of families is a conservative change for Twitter, which has proved a crucial tool for documenting and distributing news and information happening around the world. People regularly share graphic content and images, and the company suggests users mark media containing sensitive content to prevent it from automatically displaying in tweets.
Under the new guidelines, Twitter won't delete just any image, however, and it makes it very clear in the updated policy that images can be removed in certain circumstances like immediately before and after death, but if images are newsworthy, they may not be scrubbed from social network.
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 email@example.com. 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.
The new policy also comes on the heels of Robin Williams' death on Aug. 11. His daughter, Zelda Williams, received disturbing images and harassing comments following her father's death that eventually led her to quit the social network.
In response, Twitter suspended the accounts that harassed her and Twitter promised to "evaluate its policies" around tragic events to prevent future behavior.
Lead image by Anthony Quintano
Imagine a typeface that unites all the world’s languages. A publisher could print a book in Arabic, Cherokee, Egyptian Hieroglyphics and more—all without swapping out fonts.
That’s what Google is attempting to accomplish with Google Noto, a free font family that currently supports 96 languages, and aspires to support them all. Noto stands for “no tofu,” where tofu are what font professionals call those empty white boxes that appear when a character isn’t supported in a typeface.
Started in 2012, the Noto font family now spans 100,000 characters. This month, Google partnered with Adobe to release a new collection of fonts—Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean—which can be used separately or bundled together in one file so a writer can switch between languages without switching to another font.
This isn’t the first time a technology organization has made an effort to universalize the world’s fonts. In 1987, the Unicode Consortium began developing a way to make computer type compliant with global languages. The result was the Unicode Standard, a system of character codes designed to eventually represent every character in every language on Earth.
Unicode Standard wasn’t really adopted by Web browsers until 2008, and still isn’t a complete solution for capturing all the nuances of global languages in a culturally sensitive way. It was designed with character universality in mind, not particular languages. So the playing field is still ripe for a new global typeface. Whether Google is the right team to take the field, however, is debatable.
Pakistani-American writer Ali Eteraz told NPR that he isn’t sure a massive software company like Google is the right steward for the project: “I tend to go back and forth. Is it sort of a benign—possibly even helpful—universalism that Google is bringing to the table? Or is it something like technological imperialism?”
In other words, when Google is the only entity making decisions, critics fear that the actual language speakers left out of the process are the ones who suffer. Critics already have found issues with Noto’s handling of Urdu, which they say incorrectly adopts Arabic characters.
Google has already taken on an enormous effort, but one way it could attempt to improve cultural sensitivity toward global languages would be to support languages that even Unicode has overlooked. NPR used the example of Nastaʿlīq Urdu, a type of calligraphic script used in famous Urdu poetry. Right now, the only way to share it online is through image files.
Google Noto has already made strides toward not only supporting common modern languages, but minority and historical ones too. While supporting such languages will require extensive research and development, it’s the only way to truly achieve Noto’s ultimate goal of “visual harmonization across languages.”
Photo courtesy of NASA