Project Veritas: Twitter is selling your data to advertisers, you know -- even your DMs

Here is the basic truth about “free” Internet services: If you’re not paying, you’re not the customer. Project Veritas provides us with yet another reminder of that which we should already know about platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and other Internet providers. Once you post something on them, they last forever — and become commodities for the platform owners:

Haynes, who was featured in part one of the Twitter exposé, admitted in a January 6, 2018 meeting that Twitter has hired hundreds employees with the express purpose of looking at these “d*ck pics,” stating:

“There’s teams dedicated to it. I mean, we’re talking, we’re talking three or four… at least, three or four hundred people… Yes, they’re paid to look at d*ck pics.”

Haynes continues to elaborate that even he himself has seen these “d*ck pics”:

“I’ve seen way more penises than I’ve ever wanted to see in my life.”

“That’s, yeah… You know, actually… This sounds horrible, but I’m actually glad and fortunate it’s just dicks, it’s just blow job pictures, it’s just that type of stuff.” …

According to Twitter software expert Mihai Florea, “To actually charge the advertisers the money we have to prove it was you, and that’s why using email address, or like a cookie or something that can track you.” Florea continues, saying, “You’re paying for the right to use our website with your data basically.”

Not to be exceedingly glib, but really — what did people think was happening on Twitter? That messages simply vanished into the ether? Of course all of the data gets stored on servers and kept in perpetuity. That’s even true of DMs, which is why you can go back and access them when you wish to do so. The messages are Twitter’s product, and they’re following normal protocols for backing up valuable and proprietary information.

Furthermore, all of the “rules” regarding terms of service practically demand that Twitter conduct significant oversight of the messages that get posted to their systems, even on DMs. That may be in large part a consequence of  Twitter’s own attempt to impose political correctness on its platform, an effort that seems to impact conservatives a lot more than it does their ideological opponents (and the subject of a more explosive PV video), but which has prompted lots of attempts to shut others down. For instance, lots of conservative Twitter users wanted porn spammers forced out (for good reason), so is it surprising to hear Twitter engineers lamenting the volume of “d*ick pics” they’re forced to observe?  Some of that might get handled through algorithmic oversight, but it would almost inevitably involve human intervention at some point … which is why Twitter would have to employ hundreds of people to do the job.

And how can they afford it? It’s not from user subscriptions, obviously. They sell advertising, and their clients want ads served to Twitter users that would be most likely to buy their wares. Twitter is leveraging the messages as their own property — it’s their platform — to sell ads. That applies to DMs just as much as it does public messages, and maybe even more so. That’s no different than any other “free” service on the Internet, and probably not much different from some paid services as well, such as newspapers and other media outlets.

That’s not to shrug off this Project Veritas story, though. People need reminding that they’re providing free product to platforms like Twitter and Facebook with very little control over how it gets used. That’s something to keep in mind, especially if one perceives that Twitter’s management has a built-in ideological bias against you. We might expect Twitter employees to handle that control responsibly, but the risk always exists that someone will make corrupt use of the material, just as the risk exists at your bank, your credit companies, your local retailer, and so on. If you don’t want images of your penis in the hands of Twitter engineers, don’t post them online. If you don’t want Google to have access to your e-mails, don’t use their service. Find other, more secure ways to message others by investing some money in proprietary systems, even if that means pulling a Hillary Clinton to do it. (Not recommended for government officials, by the way, and find a better place than your bathroom for the server.)

Otherwise, post this notice on all your computer monitors, cell phones, and tablets: If I’m not paying for this service, I’m not the customer. Calculate your messages accordingly.

Jazz Shaw Aug 07, 2022 2:31 PM ET