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Twitter Now Blocking Accounts that Preserve Politicians' Deleted Tweets

August 24, 2015 Aaron Miles

twitter memory hole

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Twitter is now actively blocking accounts on the social network that had been preserving the deleted tweets of UK politicians, according to the article "Twitter blocks access to political transparency organisation Politwoops" in The Guardian. 31 accounts that preserved the deleted tweets of "politicians, diplomats, and embassies around the world," are being denied access.

This was in addition to previous moves that Twitter made in June to block and deny access to United States organizations like Politwoops US, which performed the same deleted-tweet archiving for politicians in the U.S. According to official statements from Twitter, the groups, by preserving deleted tweets, were violating Twitter's Terms of Service. And Twitter isn't stopping with just the US and UK.

Twitter's statement on the matter of closing the UK accounts was that the decision came after "thoughtful internal deliberation and close consideration of a number of factors," which is corporate-speak for saying absolutely nothing at all. They further stated "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." Maybe as an American I'm used to the more free-wheeling attitude towards free speech, but this sounds like utter bull.

When you are a public figure, especially a politician that has enormous power shaping policies that loom over the lives of the people you ostensibly represent, it would be guileless to think your words would (or should) not be scrutinized, and utterly naive to think you deserve the right to a permanent take-backsies on things you said on social media.

Arjan El Fassed, director of the Open State Foundation, which organized many of the now-blocked accounts, said “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.”

While the Politwoops website is still archiving deleted tweets, the blocking of accounts on Twitter prevents those monitoring politicians from directly addressing politicians with their own deleted statements, which cuts off one of the more effective tools in a democracy.

The weird and frustrating thing about this is that this, as far as I can surmise, only seems to apply to politicians and other public figures. It may be that Twitter would be just as eager to close out the account of the person who caught a screenshot of that stupid thing you tweeted, but I doubt it. I don't know if Twitter was responding to complaints from public figures, if Twitter is proactively trying to stay in the good graces of those who control the reigns of policies that might effect them, or if they really are just trying to enforce their terms of service, but Twitter's actions on some base level just seem wrong.

In fact, Twitter's policy seems perfectly backwards. Twitter should be enthusiastically protecting the efforts of Twitter users to hold public figures accountable for the things they say, and telling complaining politicians to be more careful about their tweets if they don't want to have the dumb things they say quoted back to them. It would be nice if, for once, a large entity like Twitter sided against authority, and in favor of those who were trying to keep that authority in check.

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