Twitter is effectively killing off a project in 30 countries that archives the deleted tweets of politicians and diplomats — months after doing the same thing in the United States.
The Open State Foundation, which runs the projects, said Twitter informed it over the weekend that it was revoking access to its Application Programming Interface (API), which allowed programmers to use the tool that automatically archives the deleted tweets of politicians.
“What elected politicians publicly say is a matter of public record. Even when tweets are deleted, it’s part of parliamentary history,” said Arjan El Fassed, the director of the Open State Foundation.
“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,” he added.
The social media company did the same thing to the U.S.-based Politwoops project run by the Sunlight Foundation back in May. At the time, Twitter said the project violated the company’s developer agreement related to privacy.
Over the weekend, the Open State Foundation republished parts of Twitter’s explanation that politician’s tweets should not be treated differently than those of the general public.
“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,” Twitter said, according to the foundation. “Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice.”
The company has refused to say what spawned the timing of the move, given that the projects have been in operation for multiple years. The original project was developed in the Netherlands in 2010. It had since spread to other countries in Europe and South America and places such as Egypt and Tunisia.
Back in May, there was confusion why the Sunlight Foundation’s tool appeared to be singled out, while other projects around the world remained in operation.
But some advocates had been hesitant to pose the question, because the other organizations appeared to be “running under the radar.” The attention, they thought, could cause Twitter to crack down on the others, rather than reinstate Sunlight’s tool.
UPDATE 2:30 p.m. — Twitter released a statement explaining its decision:
"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," a spokesman for the company said.
"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."