Deceptive Deletions for Protecting Withdrawn Posts on Social Media Platforms

Mohsen Minaei (Visa Research), S Chandra Mouli (Purdue University), Mainack Mondal (IIT Kharagpur), Bruno Ribeiro (Purdue University), Aniket Kate (Purdue University)

Over-sharing poorly-worded thoughts and personal information is prevalent on online social platforms. In many of these cases, users regret posting such content. To retrospectively rectify these errors in users' sharing decisions, most platforms offer (deletion) mechanisms to withdraw the content, and social media users often utilize them. Ironically and perhaps unfortunately, these deletions make users more susceptible to privacy violations by malicious actors who specifically hunt post deletions at large scale. The reason for such hunting is simple: deleting a post acts as a powerful signal that the post might be damaging to its owner. Today, multiple archival services are already scanning social media for these deleted posts. Moreover, as we demonstrate in this work, powerful machine learning models can detect damaging deletions at scale.

Towards restraining such a global adversary against users' right to be forgotten, we introduce Deceptive Deletion, a decoy mechanism that minimizes the adversarial advantage. Our mechanism injects decoy deletions, hence creating a two-player minmax game between an adversary that seeks to classify damaging content among the deleted posts and a challenger that employs decoy deletions to masquerade real damaging deletions. We formalize the Deceptive Game between the two players, determine conditions under which either the adversary or the challenger provably wins the game, and discuss the scenarios in-between these two extremes. We apply the Deceptive Deletion mechanism to a real-world task on Twitter: hiding damaging tweet deletions. We show that a powerful global adversary can be beaten by a powerful challenger, raising the bar significantly and giving a glimmer of hope in the ability to be really forgotten on social platforms.