Twitter Slams the Door on Service that Collected Politicians’ Deleted Tweets

Monday, June 08, 2015
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Twitter is no longer allowing the Sunlight Foundation to collect deleted tweets from politicians.


The Sunlight Foundation created Politwoops to help keep politicians honest about what they say on Twitter, even when what they say is no longer there.


“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,” Christopher Gates wrote at the Sunlight Foundation. “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.”


Twitter didn’t offer much of an explanation for its decision, telling Gawker: “Honoring the expectation of user privacy for all accounts is a priority for us, whether the user is anonymous or a member of Congress.”


Gates pointed out that “a member of Congress does not and should not have the same expectation of privacy as a private citizen. Power can only be accountable with a generous application of transparency.”


The foundation’s Politwoops has included many examples of politicians trying to erase their gaffes or abrupt changes in policy.


Last year, the release of American POW Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was at first greeted with cheers by many, particularly those on the right. But once word got out that the release involved the freeing of Taliban detainees from Guantánamo, at least half a dozen members of Congress deleted their celebratory tweets to Bergdahl.


Another Politwoops came from the governor of Alabama, Republican Robert Bentley, who tweeted upon returning to his state that he was glad to be back, attached to a photo of him dining at Subway. Some thought Bentley ought to be enjoying more authentically Southern cuisine. One critic tweeted: “Nothing says Alabama like subway?” Politwoops noted that the governor’s office “folded to the haters and deleted the tweet after two hours.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Eulogy for Politwoops (by Christopher Gates, Sunlight Foundation)

Politwoops 2014: the Top Deleted Tweets from Politicians (by Nicko Margolies, Sunlight Foundation)

Politwoops 2013: the Year’s Top Politicians and Their Best Deletions from Twitter (by Nicko Margolies, Sunlight Foundation)


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