People were happy to hear that Twitter and Politwoops have finally reached a deal. This means that the deleted tweets of politicians can once again be shared with the world. Politwoops was a website dedicated to spotting Twitter gaffes and revealing these before they were erased. This was done because the site owners believed in full government transparency.
An archive of the public statements deleted by U.S. politicians. Explore the tweets they would prefer you couldn’t see.
Unfortunately, the site’s Twitter account was suspended and they were told that they would no longer be allowed to continue their practices. Now, it seems that a deal has been reached, enabling Politwoops to return to its previous activities ‘in the coming months’. An agreement had been reached in the past, but Twitter decided that it hurt privacy and broke Twitter rules.
So how does Politwoops work? Essentially, politicians sometimes make very controversial remarks on social media. Once this is spotted and people start to get angry about it, it suddenly disappears. Politwoops, as well as a number of other government transparency groups, have now agreed with Twitter that they will hold an archive of all those deleted tweets. This is because it is believed that they should be a matter of public record.
Politwoops has long been very popular, but its service was disrupted when Twitter no longer provided them with access the preservation code. According to Twitter, this was in the interest of Twitter users.
We support increasing transparency in politics and using civic tech and open data to hold government accountable to constituents.
However, publishing deleted Tweets was in violation of users’ privacy and also not in accordance with the Twitter rules.
Politwoops is ran by the transparency group Open State Foundation from the Netherlands and by the Sunlight Foundation, a similar group from this country. They joined up and created a response in September, asking access to be restored in full. They stated that it is the right of every citizen to get information about the politicians that represent them, and that this right weighs heavier than the right of a politician to edit a statement retroactively.
This actually developed into a huge conflict because it forced people to define what an online public record actually is. It also showed that people need to be very careful about what they do and don’t post on social media. For instance, in July 2015, a Donald Trump campaign member created a picture collage that included images of Nazi soldiers, later fully deleting the Trump account. One year before, politicians had tweeted their support towards a soldier who was captured by the Taliban but quickly deleted their tweets when it was found he was actually a deserter.
Twitter has not explained why they have changed their mind on the agreement. Instead, they quoted some of Jack Dorsey‘s October remarks.
We have a responsibility to continue to empower organizations that bring more transparency to public dialogue, such as Politwoops. We need to make sure we are serving all these organizations and developers in the best way, because that is what will make Twitter great. We need to listen, we need to learn, and we need to have this conversation with you. We want to start that today.
The Open State Foundation has also responded, stating that the agreement followed a number of meetings that have taken place since October. Exactly when Politwoops will actually be operational again isn’t clear. It will likely not take very long. Some believe it will take a matter of weeks, others have stated that it will be months. That it is coming, nevertheless, is inevitable.