Twitter has pushed back after the release of undercover videos in which Twitter employees – primarily senior network security engineer Clay Haynes – are depicted as saying that they “view everything” users post on their servers, including private messages and sexual photos, and that employees are more than happy to participate in a Department of Justice investigation into Donald Trump.
The videos were posted by Project Veritas, an independent media outlet known for doctored clips it promotes as exposés on mostly liberal organizations.
The videos look like they were recorded via hidden camera while Haynes shared drinks with members of Project Veritas. The outlet claims to have met with him multiple times.
In one video, Haynes said Twitter is…
More than happy to help the Department of Justice in their little investigation [by providing them with] every single tweet that [Trump] has posted, even the ones he’s deleted. Any direct messages, any mentions.
In another meeting, Haynes says that Twitter has the ability to disclose…
Every single message, every single tweet, whatever you log into, what profile pictures you upload.
That second meeting was attended by Veritas Project founder and Donald Trump ally James O’Keefe, disguised in a wig and glasses. According to the New York Times, Trump has been supporting O’Keefe’s work for years, having donated $10,000 from his foundation to O’Keefe’s group.
During the meeting – a video of which O’Keefe posted here on Twitter – O’Keefe suggests that Haynes peek into direct messages in the accounts of both Donald Trump Senior and Junior. Haynes responds by emphasizing that such access is only permissible as part of the “subpoena process.”
It’s within the context of the subpoena process that Haynes says that Twitter can look at “every single message, every single tweet, whatever you log into, what profile pictures you upload.”
Last Wednesday, in a statement to media outlets, Twitter pushed back hard against the notion that its employees monitor private user data – including direct messages – outside of when instructed to do so under subpoena or other valid legal requests:
We do not proactively review DMs. Period.
Twitter said that a “limited number of employees” have access to such information, for “legitimate work purposes,” and that it enforces “strict access protocols for those employees.”
Twitter only responds to valid legal requests and does not share any user information with law enforcement without such a request…
There’s nothing new, shocking or revelatory about any of this. Twitter’s privacy policies and terms of service clearly outline how it holds and stores the information that users choose to share, including direct messages. It’s had access to the content of DMs for years. That is, after all, how it’s been able to reach in to messages and shorten URLs.
When you privately communicate with others through our Services, such as by sending and receiving Direct Messages, we will store and process your communications, and information related to them.
And from its terms and conditions:
We also reserve the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as we reasonably believe is necessary to (i) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request.
As far as Haynes goes, he’s not having much fun at all. The only thing he’s apparently said publicly has been this tweet, which has been mercilessly trolled by Trump supporters:
Well. This is no fun.
— Tank 🚲 ««🚦«🚓 (@dark_15) January 10, 2018
As far as public statements about Haynes and the other employees featured in the Project Veritas videos go, Twitter’s holding them at arm’s length. In its statement, Twitter said those employees shown in the video “were speaking in a personal capacity and do not represent or speak for Twitter.”
Twitter added that it finds Project Veritas’ methods despicable:
We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative. Twitter is committed to enforcing our rules without bias and empowering every voice on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.