Twitter Is Letting People Threaten Joe Biden's Cybersecurity Expert

The social media platform says publishing a Google Street View picture of Biden’s cybersecurity expert’s home is not a violation of its anti-doxing and harassment policies.
August 28, 2020, 7:23pm
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Andreas Eldh/Flickr

A Twitter account named after an infamous group of hackers threatened to dox the home address of a cybersecurity expert who works for the Joe Biden presidential campaign this week. And Twitter, for now, is not taking action against the harasser.

On August 18, Jackie Singh, who works as a cybersecurity expert for the Biden campaign, posted a selfie in front of a busted fire hydrant. On Thursday, a Twitter account named Illm0b, a reference to a now-deleted Facebook group of hackers that was full of misogynist and offensive comments against minorities and women, shared the Tweet along with a screenshot of a Google Street View of the photo's location, and a picture of Where's Waldo holding a sign that read: "Where's Find_Evil," in reference to Singh's Twitter handle. The account has tweeted extensively about Singh for over a year, and has a picture of Singh with glasses and a clown nose as the avatar.

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Singh said that she reported the tweet to Twitter, as she believed it was an attempt to harass and intimidate her. Twitter, however, disagrees.

"According to @TwitterSupport, this tweet where a threat actor posts my photos with an added screenshot of Google StreetView (identifying my home where my children sleep) is not a violation of their policies," Singh wrote on Friday.

Twitter's policy on publishing private information prohibits "threatening to expose private information or incentivizing others to do so."

"Our primary aim is to protect individuals from coming to physical harm as a result of their information being shared," the policy reads. "So we consider information like physical location to be a higher risk than other types of information."

A Twitter spokesperson said that "the Tweet you referenced is currently not in violation of the Twitter Rules." The spokesperson pointed to the policy, which states that users can't share home addresses, physical location such as street addresses and GPS coordinates, as well as other private identifying location information. Ilm0b's tweet doesn't explicitly violate this rule.

"The fact that they don't see this as a violation is incredibly troubling."

Illmob was a discussion group on Facebook for years. Motherboard was unable to determine if the Twitter account is related to that group or is simply using its name. A direct message sent to the Illm0b account was not returned. A message sent to Will Genovese, who founded Illmob, was not returned.

Singh declined to comment, saying she wasn't authorized to speak to the press as a member of the Biden campaign.

Jillian York, an expert in online platforms moderation and a Motherboard contributor, said that this case is "wild" and clearly a case of harassment and doxing.

"Twitter has, in numerous cases, suspended people for posting publicly available information about public figures' phone numbers," York said. "So the fact that they don't see this as a violation is incredibly troubling."

For example, in January of this year, Twitter suspended a blogger who doxed a Chinese scientist, and in June the company suspended a New York City police union that posted private information of Mayor Bill De Blasio's daughter

York said in an online chat that "Twitter needs to make sure that it's applying these policies consistently, and not just protecting the privileged."

UPDATE, Saturday August 29, 9:57 a.m.: After this story was published, Twitter suspended the Illm0b account. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suspension.

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