Twitter abruptly shuts down tool tracking lawmakers' deleted tweets

Twitter abruptly shuts down tool tracking lawmakers' deleted tweets
© Sunlight Foundation

The Sunlight Foundation’s tool to track lawmakers’ deleted tweets appears crippled after a three-year run. 

Twitter said Wednesday it will no longer allow the Sunlight Foundation to have access to the company's application programming interface (API), which allows the foundation’s Politwoops to automatically track deleted tweets.   

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Twitter said it pulled the plug because it violated the company’s developer agreement related to privacy. 

“Earlier today we spoke to the Sunlight Foundation, to tell them we will not restore Twitter API access for their Politwoops site,” a Twitter spokesman said in a statement. 

“We strongly support Sunlight’s mission of increasing transparency in politics and using civic tech and open data to hold government accountable to constituents, but preserving deleted Tweets violates our developer agreement. Honoring the expectation of user privacy for all accounts is a priority for us, whether the user is anonymous or a member of Congress.”

Twitter’s APIs allow third parties to gain access to the social media site’s tweet stream, allowing programmers to easily filter through the data. 

Twitter referenced a section of its developers agreement language that became effective May 18: “Only surface Twitter activity as it surfaced on Twitter. For example, your Service should execute the unfavorite and delete actions by removing all relevant Content, not by publicly displaying to other users that the Tweet is no longer favorited or has been deleted.”

Politwoop’s most recently tracked deleted tweet is from May 15. 

The Sunlight Foundation wrote last week it was “sadly enduring an outage.” As early as Wednesday morning, the Sunlight Foundation said it was “working with Twitter and hope to have Politwoops back up soon.” 

The Sunlight Foundation appeared cognizant it was walking a fine line with Twitter’s terms of service. On its site, it mentions, “To meet the Twitter API Terms of Service, all deleted tweets shown here since June 22, 2012 have been reviewed and approved by the Sunlight Foundation.”