When Twitter shut down the U.S. version of Politwoops, a site that archived American politicians’ deleted tweets, in June, it seemed likely that the 30 other such sites worldwide would eventually get the ax as well. Now that has happened: Over the weekend, the Open State Foundation, which ran the non-U.S. versions of Politwoops and Diplotwoops, reported that Twitter has suspended API access for all of those accounts as well.
In its post announcing the news, the Open State Foundation included some of the rationale that Twitter provided:
Twitter said that its decision to suspend access to Politwoops followed a ‘thoughtful internal deliberation and close consideration of a number of factors’ and that it doesn’t distinguish between users. Twitter wrote: ‘Imagine how nerve-racking — terrifying, even — tweeting would be if it was immutable and irrevocable? No one user is more deserving of that ability than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice.’
Think of it as a Twitter-imposed “right to be forgotten”:
Arjan El Fassed, Open State Foundation director, said in a statement:
What elected politicians publicly say is a matter of public record. 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.
A Twitter spokesperson gave me the following statement:
The ability to delete one’s Tweets — for whatever reason — has been a long-standing feature of Twitter for all users. We built into our Developer Policy provisions a requirement that those accessing our APIs delete content that Twitter reports as deleted or expired.
From time to time, we come upon apps or solutions that violate that policy. Recently, we identified several services that used the feature we built to allow for the deletion of tweets to instead archive and highlight them. We subsequently informed these services of their noncompliance and suspended their access to our APIs.
We take our commitment to our users seriously and will continue to defend and respect our users’ voices in our product and platform.
As Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton noted in June, Twitter initially gave Politwoops a journalistic exception to this “deleted or expired” content rule when the Sunlight Foundation launched the U.S. site in 2012. “We explained the goals of the project and agreed to create a human curation workflow to ensure that the site screened out corrected low-value tweets like typos, links and Twitter handles,” Christopher Gates, Sunlight Foundation president, wrote in June. “We implemented this layer of journalistic judgment with blessings from Twitter and the site continued.” Now, it seems, the human-added value exception no longer applies.
The affected countries:
The list of countries where Twitter blocked Politwoops includes Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Portugal, Egypt, Estonia, France, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Macedonia, Norway, Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and the Vatican. It also includes members of the European Parliament.
The @PolitwoopsEU account is completely suspended. Other accounts, such as Politwoops UK, were still up and running on Twitter Monday but weren’t able to post new deleted tweets.
This post was updated on Monday afternoon with Twitter’s statement and some more information.