As Russia’s war with Ukraine continues, horrific images begin to emerge of the civilian victims of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. Images of bodies lying on the streets or in shelled houses have been widely shared on Twitter, in addition to being published in major news channels.
When shared sensitively, such images can shed new light on the horrors of war and provide support to those who need it. They can also make an important contribution to documenting what is happening in conflict zones. But as a fact-checking and open-source intelligence group Bellingcat Notesrepeated exposure to such graphics may contribute to a sense of secondary trauma. Poynter argues: these images should be shared with care, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists previously described The Associated Press’s decision to share a sensitive image via its Twitter feed as “exploitative and dehumanizing†
One of the trade-offs is using a recently released Twitter feature that lets you tag sensitive images, hiding them behind a warning about their content. Here’s how to use it:
- Add a photo or video as you normally would.
- On mobile, tap anywhere on the photo or video to open the edit menu. The brush icon at the bottom right does the same. On the web, you can use the Edit button at the bottom right of an image.
- In this edit menu, tap the flag icon at the bottom right on mobile or at the top right on web.
- Select which content warning best describes the images: Nudity† Violenceor Sensitive† Twitter allows you to select more than one category at a time. Select Finished on mobile.
- Select Save in the top right corner of the edit menu.
- Publish the tweet.
There is no easy answer to how and when to use images of the horrors of war. But content alerts like these — long used in other media like TV to warn when reports contain disturbing content — can help viewers prepare for what they’re about to see.
Keep in mind that there are also images that Twitter deems too extreme to be allowed on its platform at all. The support page states that it does not allow “images or videos in which a reasonably identifiable person has clearly died.” It also prohibits sharing images or videos showing people dying or sharing images for “sadistic purposes.”