Twitter Just Killed Politwoops as it flipflops on access to deleted tweets from politicians

Twitter Just Killed Politwoops as it flipflops on access to deleted tweets from politicians


Politwoops is a website that tracks deleted tweets from hundreds of politicians.  A site which has many fans for obvious reasons.  Now, Twitter has pulled the plug on this site’s access to Twitter API.

Gawker got this statement from Sunlight Foundation, which runs Politwoops.

Since 2012, the website Politwoops has tracked which tweets U.S. lawmakers delete from their Twitter accounts—usually due to innocent typos or simple errors, and sometimes due to more embarrassing mistakes. Last month, however, the site abruptly stopped working: The last deleted tweet listed on its main page, by Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, is dated May 15.Politwoops has not been updated in the two weeks since.

So what happened? Twitter did not respond to a request for comment, but a statement from Nicko Margolies of the Washington-based Sunlight Foundation, the open-government advocacy group that runs Politwoops, indicated the problem was on Twitter’s end:

Politwoops is dealing with an issue related to the access to Twitter data. We’ve appealed through Twitter’s support process and are waiting on a response. Unfortunately, in the meantime the site is not up-to-date.

The drama didn’t end here.  Gawker got another email, ostensibly from a Sunlight employee who was in the know of things as regards the negotiations with Twitter and had this to say:

I work at Twitter and am definitely a Politiwoops fan despite knowing it violates our Terms of Service. (Definitely not in a decision making position though.) As you know, Sunlight had a phone call with a colleague here at Twitter. My understanding is, we were going to consider a quiet reversal but let’s just say it didn’t go well. (Lots of “why us and not others.”) And frankly I think we wound up digging in because of that. No More Politwoops 🙁 :(. At least a few of us here still think that is a fucking shame though.

Interestingly, Sunlight’s Politwoops was allowed the API use by Twitter in 2012.  But that changed.  And it is unfortunate because this is a way for the politicians to rub out their statements after they have blurted out their ideological misstatements.  What is sad is that Twitter, a prominent social media network has backed such a move!

In 2012, Twitter made the decision to allow Sunlight to curate the deleted tweets from lawmakers and those seeking elected office. Last night all that changed.

When we launched Politwoops three years ago, our goal was to create accountability and a  public record for the messages elected officials and candidates for president, vice president, Congress and governor published on social media, particularly those public statements they delete.

What our elected officials say is a matter of public record, and Twitter is an increasingly important part of how our elected officials communicate with the public. This kind of dialogue between we the people and those who represent us is an important part of any democratic system. And even in the case of deleted tweets, it’s also a public part — these tweets are live and viewable by anyone on and other platforms for at least some amount of time.

Unfortunately, Twitter’s decision to pull the plug on Politwoops is a reminder of how the Internet isn’t truly a public square. Our shared conversations are increasingly taking place in privately owned and managed walled gardens, which means that the politics that occur in such conversations are subject to private rules. (In this case, Twitter’s terms of service for usage of its API.)

It seems these steps are a compromise by Twitter in terms of transparency to go for higher profits.

#Twitter Just Killed #Politwoops as it flipflops on access to deleted tweets from politicians Click To Tweet

I have heard from several sources that Twitter seems to be taking a far harder line as it pushes for profitability. Where once it looked benevolently on projects dedicated to political transparency, it now looks more to the bottom line. Of course, that could be entirely wrong but the company is unwilling to debate its thinking or strategy in this area openly.

Although this move is with respect to the US, but this will likely extend to every country going forward.

The ‘land of the free’ was the first to see the efforts to keep an eye on politicians’ sneaky deletions shut down, but it doesn’t look like it will be the last. If Politwoops falls, we will have lost a powerful tool for journalists and citizens alike. And in killing it, Twitter will have killed its credibility as a platform for free speech.

That surely is true!

Also Read:  Primer on Dating: Science and Math of Online Dating

Featured Image source: Flickr

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