Twitter Suspends Reporter For 'Posting Private Info' That Is Merely Internal Deutsche Bank Email That Could Implicate Trump

from the content-moderation-at-scale dept

Once again, I need to refer you to Masnick's Impossibility Theorem, on how it is effectively impossible to do content moderation at scale well. The latest example? Twitter suspended the account of Scott Stedman, the founder of the investigative news site, Forensic News. A few weeks back, Forensic News had a pretty incredible scoop, highlighting how a Russian government-controlled bank, Gazprombank, sent over $500 million to the American subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, at about the same time that very same subsidiary was lending nearly $400 million to Donald Trump. Deutsche Bank has run into trouble for its handling of Russian government-connected money, including its role in helping the Russians launder money.

The new evidence appears to come from Val Broeksmit, the stepson of a former senior Deutsche Bank exec. Broeksmit's story -- as covered in the craziest NY Times article you'll ever read -- is quite incredible and worth reading up on, as it shows how he has access to all of this internal Deutsche Bank info. In this case, the key detail of interest was an internal "breach report" sent to the senior Broeksmit, showing that the bank's liabilities exceeded its assets. As the report goes on to note, an absolutely huge percentage of the American subsidiary of Deutsche Bank's liabilities were to Russia in 2013. As the article details, nearly $3 billion of its liabilities were Russian in origin, approximately triple the next largest creditor, Switzerland.

All that's very interesting, but what does any of it have to do with content moderation? Well... right after the Forensic News report went out, Stedman noted that his website was under attack, and it looks like someone went after his Twitter account as well, trying to report it. They were successful, as it turns out. At issue was one key piece of evidence that Forensic News used in its report: the emails about the "breach report." Stedman posted images of this email to show the basis of the story. And, it appears that enough people reported it to Twitter, that they suspended his account for "posting private information":

If you somehow can't see the embedded image, it shows the notice from Twitter saying that his tweet showing "the original email" about the breach report violated Twitter's rules for "posting private information... without their express authorization and permission." If you look for that original tweet now, you currently see this:

It is not difficult to see how this happened. It seems likely that a lot of folks who'd rather this story go away took to reporting various Stedman tweets to try to silence him. The reported tweets get reviewed by a content moderation staff, and one of the "rules" is no posting of private information. The evidence is someone's private email. And, so, a content moderator says "that violates the rules." Now, of course, there's supposed to be a "newsworthy exception" to content moderation practices, but is the harried outsourced moderation person, who has a giant queue to get through, going to take the time to understand that this revelation of an email was key to a pretty big news story? Of course not. There's some spam or whatnot to takedown next.

Obviously, it would be great if it were humanly possible to carefully investigate each of these reports, but if that happened, the queue would just get longer and longer and longer, and we'd hear complaints in the other direction, about how Twitter never responds to legitimate reports of tweets that violates its rules.

In the end, there's really no great answer -- though I will note that it's really only because of this effort to silence Stedman's reporting and evidence that I became aware of this story in the first place... There's some sort of name for that kind of thing, I think.

Filed Under: content moderation at scale, content moderation is impossible, emails, newsworthy, private info, scott stedman, val broeksmit
Companies: deutsche bank, forensic news, twitter


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  • identicon
    bt, 5 Feb 2020 @ 12:19pm

    Perhaps the Streisand Effect will take care of this one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2020 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      Well, this article is the first I've heard about it... so it's at least starting.

      What I'd like to see eventually is Babs throwing in some money to support Masnick. He brought her renewed fame, after all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 5 Feb 2020 @ 1:27pm

    The Only Way To Stop Companies Acting Arbitrarily ...

    ... is to regulate them. End of story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2020 @ 1:50pm

      That's not how that works. That's not how any of that works

      It wasn't an arbitrary decision, it was one based upon a subjective choice regarding violations of the rules put in place, something that would not in any way change with regulations beyond perhaps changing what rules exactly were in place.

      Given that the rule this time around was one regarding sharing personal information, something that likely would(if not already is to an extent) be regulated, nothing likely would have changed even with regulations in place relevant to what happened.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 5 Feb 2020 @ 5:36pm

        Re: wasn’t ... arbtrary ... was ... subjective choice

        I rest my case.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2020 @ 10:24pm

          Re: Re: wasn’t ... arbtrary ... was ... subjective choice

          Unless your 'case' is 'I was wrong the first time' then I'm not seeing it. With or without regulations companies are still going to make moderation decisions based upon the rules in place, the only difference is who gets to write those rules, and in this instance neither likely would have resulted in a different result.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Toom1275 (profile), 6 Feb 2020 @ 9:42am

          Re: Re: wasn’t ... arbtrary ... was ... subjective choice

          Case dismisssd due to lack of evidence.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 5 Feb 2020 @ 2:07pm

      Re: The Only Way To Stop Companies Acting Arbitrarily ...

      Speaking of stories, did you read this one, or just skim the headline and then comment?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2020 @ 2:37pm

      Re: The Only Way To Stop Companies Acting Arbitrarily ...

      What makes you think a regulation will make moderation any better? If anything it will make it worse.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 5 Feb 2020 @ 5:35pm

        Re: regulation will make moderation any better

        The fact the regulators are answerable to a democratically-elected Government, which is in turn answerable to the voters, as opposed to the shareholders of some faceless, amoral mega-corporation.

        Think of it as a new buzzword: “no moderation without representation!”

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2020 @ 10:40pm

          Re: Re: regulation will make moderation any better

          The only thing that changes is who write the moderation rules, you still haven't answered how you think it would be better to have the government deciding moderation rules or how that would make for better moderation.

          The fact the regulators are answerable to a democratically-elected Government, which is in turn answerable to the voters, as opposed to the shareholders of some faceless, amoral mega-corporation.

          Don't like the moderation on a platform, find another one. If enough people follow suit then congrats, they either answer to their users or they suffer the consequences.

          Also, got some bad news for you if you think that those 'faceless, amoral mega-corporations' wouldn't be the ones writing the regulations, much like they do now on a regular basis. The only real difference is that multiple companies would be writing them, and between some companies trying to sabotage things for other companies and those trying to give themselves as much wiggle room as possible the rules would end up so screwed up and/or full of holes as to make the current moderation practices look amazing by comparison, except it would be so much worse because moderation practices would be baked into law, such that there would be no ability to try something else to see if it worked better.

          Think of it as a new buzzword: “no moderation without representation!”

          Someone doesn't get to walk into a private business and start swearing at the staff, and then when asked to leave respond with 'I don't have to follow your rules, I wasn't involved in writing them!'

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 6 Feb 2020 @ 3:16pm

            Re: who write the moderation rules

            We already have a process for that, where lawmakers draft laws and voters get to have their input. It’s called “democracy”. And it has concepts like “checks and balances”, which large, faceless megacorporations don’t have (and don’t like).

            Time to admit that the free market has failed to solve this problem. That means it falls into the laps of Government to do something about it. Because who else is there?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 6 Feb 2020 @ 4:42pm

              Re: Re: who write the moderation rules

              A process for what, blatant violations of the first amendment because you don't like how platforms are moderating? Because that's exactly what you'd run smack into if you wanted to get the government into the business of regulating speech via moderation, and that's before the little tidbit you seem to have ignored about how government regulations on moderation would very quickly be written by the very companies you want moderated, and/or the companies trying to shut them down, and/or by politicians who are either woefully ignorant of the subject, highly biased, or both, making the problem even worse than it currently is.

              Your 'solution' is akin to trying to fix a paper-cut via amputation; there may be a problem but your 'solution' is adding to it, not getting rid of it.

              Because who else is there?

              Loaded question/false dichotomy, you're assuming that it's someone's responsibility to 'solve this problem'(which as far as I can tell you still haven't defined beyond a vague problem with moderation) and if they can't then it's on the government to do so. How about, 'if you don't like their moderation, go elsewhere', or 'create or join a better platform with moderation that you do agree with'?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2020 @ 3:37am

          Re: Re: regulation will make moderation any better

          The fact the regulators are answerable to a democratically-elected Government,

          Just look at how well that is working out for copyright laws.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2020 @ 5:41am

          Re: Re: regulation will make moderation any better

          "The fact the regulators are answerable to a democratically-elected Government, which is in turn answerable to the voters, as opposed to the shareholders of some faceless, amoral mega-corporation."

          Democratically? .... LOL - yeah sure it is.
          answerable to the voters? .... omg - I'm gonna throw up

          Are you serious?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 6 Feb 2020 @ 3:12pm

            Re: Are you serious?

            I live in a democracy, with all the usual checks and balances. Don’t you?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Rocky, 6 Feb 2020 @ 4:00pm

              Re: Re: Are you serious?

              So why are you suggesting that all speech has to be approved by the government?

              Are you that intent on destroying the democracy you live in?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rocky, 6 Feb 2020 @ 8:42am

          Re: Re: regulation will make moderation any better

          Think of it as a new buzzword: “no moderation without representation!”

          Unless you plan to trample all over the first amendment, that "buzzword" is dead.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 5 Feb 2020 @ 5:44pm

      Re: The Only Way To Stop Companies Acting Arbitrarily ...

      At which point, the government starts acting arbitrarily... Oh, wait.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2020 @ 2:46pm

    "In the end, there's really no great answer"

    "In the end, through the gutless behavior of the Republican Senators and prevention of legitimate evidence in the shape of credible witnesses being called, Trump has been aquited! How could anything like this ever be classed as being in the interests of justice? Only those Republicans in the Senate and Trump himself could have done this, proving his guilt through fear of the truth being told! When someone in such a position relies on lies to keep his position, how could he possibly be trusted to look after the people and the country? He's supposed to be trustworthy, above all else!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2020 @ 3:25pm

    So i clicked through to the NYT story, advertised as as covered in the craziest NY Times article you'll ever read, so of course i had to.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/01/business/val-broeksmit-deutsche-bank-trump-whistle-blower.htm l

    So i see this:
    Again and again, one man has taken his trove of secret documents — and uncanny nose for scandal — to the center of the news.
    With a picture...

    ... Bono?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adam, 6 Feb 2020 @ 6:12am

    redo it

    What's to stop him from reposting that same tweet with the address blacked out or removed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2020 @ 2:27pm

    Twitter did the right dawn thing. Posting private information about anyone should absolutely get you banned or suspended from their service. The rules should always apply to everybody. If twitter allows personal information to be posted about Trump then they open themselves to liability if they ban somebody for posting personal information about Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 7 Feb 2020 @ 2:44pm

      Re:

      And when that 'private information' is evidence of a crime/corruption, especially when it involves someone in a government position where there is a strong public interest?

      Context matters, there's a big difference between 'here's a private email someone sent containing perfectly legal but embarrassing information' and 'here's a private email someone sent that appears to show them engaging in activity they very much should not be doing.'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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