Twitter Disputes Claims In Project Veritas Undercover Video That Engineers Harvest Users’ Personal information

Social media network employees appear to claim on hidden camera that they have unrestricted access to intimate direct messages.

Project Veritas undercover Twitter video
Jeff Chiu / AP Images

Social media network employees appear to claim on hidden camera that they have unrestricted access to intimate direct messages.

Controversial muckraker James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas crew have dropped a third hidden camera video that purports to show several Twitter engineers acknowledging that they can monitor everyone’s tweets and private direct messages at will. The social media network reviews the personal information, including compromising sexually oriented material if such exists, to create a virtual profile of each user and then sells that data to advertisers, they claimed.

In the first undercover video that O’Keefe’s organization released about Twitter, an engineer also talked about how Twitter engineers can allegedly access everyone’s account, including their passwords, and also can obtain all direct messages and deleted tweets. He also said that he would gladly share President Trump’s Twitter activity, public and private, with the U.S. Justice Department. Twitter subsequently issued a statement blasting Project Veritas for its underhanded tactics and selective editing but disavowed the engineer’s comments. The engineer was speaking on a personal basis and thus did not represent Twitter, the company insisted. It added that no user information is ever turned over to law enforcement unless the request comes through legal channels.

In the second video, past and present Twitter employees allegedly appear to discuss how they can mute or filter out pro-President Trump tweets or tweets from those identified as Republicans or conservatives with shadow-banning techniques. Twitter has denied engaging in shadow banning but did admit to down-ranking “abusive” accounts.

In addition to shadow banning, Twitter has been accused of throttling tweets or hashtags for political reasons. It has also faced accusations of selective enforcement of rules against hate speech.

In the newest edited footage, among other things, an engineer claims that every Twitter user’s activity is fair game, including salacious material, and is permanently kept on Twitter servers and that hundreds of employees can take a look at it. Another engineer opines that users “pay” for the ability to use Twitter for free by giving up their personal data. In other words, perhaps, the actual commodity being sold on the Internet is the user.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a Twitter spokesperson disputed what is depicted in the video.

“We do not proactively review DMs. Period. A limited number of employees have access to such information, for legitimate work purposes, and we enforce strict access protocols for those employees.”

Interestingly enough, BuzzFeed added that “Twitter did not answer questions about the number of employees who have such access or the specifics of precautions it takes to protect sensitive user data.”

An unnamed ex-Twitter employee conceded to BuzzFeed that the discussion presented in the video was “technically accurate to a degree, but exaggerated for effect by drunk idiots.” The former employee also said that only a handful of engineers are authorized to access direct messages.

On the Project Veritas website, James O’Keefe declared that “Twitter is aggressively harvesting your personal information and tracking your every movement, selling your virtual dossier to the highest bidder. Even more alarming is that these Twitter employees don’t seem to think that they are the ‘biggest brother’ out there.” O’Keefe says that more videos are on the way.

“To be fair, Twitter’s privacy policy does state that it stores your personal information,” BizPacRevew noted.

The O’Keefe video is the latest installment of the Project Veritas series called “American Pravda” in which the conservative group attempts to expose institutional liberal bias at various big media organizations. O’Keefe has also just published a book of the same name.

Last week elsewhere in Silicon Valley, ex-Google software engineer James Damore — the author of the diversity critique that made national headlines — sued his former employer for workplace discrimination, alleging, in part, that the tech company bullies and blacklists those workers who don’t subscribe to its progressive, social justice agenda.

Watch the newest Project Veritas video below, which is NSFW given the remarks about private body parts, and draw your own conclusions.