Twitter kills Politwoops project, built to save politicians' deleted tweets

The idea of having tweets archived forever and unable to be deleted is ‘nerve-racking – terrifying, even’, says Twitter

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The Independent Tech

Twitter has killed a service that collected the deleted tweets of politicians in the UK, arguing that being unable to erase updates was “nerve-racking — terrifying, even”.

Politwoops was run by the Open State Foundation and monitored politicians’ Twitter profiles and looked out for tweets that were posted and then deleted. It then posted any updates that were deleted, collecting them in the name of transparency.

But Twitter has now shut off the access that allowed the service to work, arguing that Twitter users should be able to delete their updates whenever they want.

Twitter said that it had made the decision after “thoughtful internal deliberation and close consideration of a number of factors”, according to the Open State Foundation.

“‘Imagine how nerve-racking – terrifying, even – tweeting would be if it was immutable and irrevocable?” Twitter asked, according to the group. “No one user is more deserving of that ability than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice.”

Twitter suspended access for the US version of the service in May. But the Open State Foundation continued to run it in 30 countries, which have now been turned off.

Politwoops was formed in 2010 at a hackathon, slowly growing to take in a huge range of countries. The group said that it acted to hold politicians to account, by cataloguing their public statements.

“What elected politicians publicly say is a matter of public record,” said Arjan El Fassed, director of the Open State Foundation, in a statement. “Even when tweets are deleted, it’s part of parliamentary history.

“These tweets were once posted and later deleted. What politicians say in public should be available to anyone. This is not about typos but it is a unique insight on how messages from elected politicians can change without notice.”

 

The group said that it would continue to “explore and engage with others to keep public messages by elected politicians visible”.

As well as the UK, the takedown blocked Politwoops accounts focused on Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Portugal, Egypt, Estonia, France, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Macedonia, Norway, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and the Vatican, as well as the European Parliament.

The group also ran another tool called Diplotwoops, which collected the deleted tweets of diplomats.

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