Doublecheck no more: Twitter denies access to politicians' deleted tweets

Reuters/Mike Segar
Politwoops, the public archive of online statements deleted by US lawmakers, shut down after Twitter denied the source tool access to politicians' deleted tweets. Twitter said the nonprofit organization behind the site violated the developer agreement.

Although the website, operated by the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, had cached deleted politicians' tweets since 2012, it was abruptly shut down by Twitter last month, with Politwoops' most recently tracked deleted tweet posted on May 15.

On Wednesday, Twitter confirmed it would no longer allow the tool that captured cached tweets access to its application program interface (API). That tool had let Politwoops automatically track things that hundreds of US politicians had tweeted and then ‒ on second thought ‒ deleted.

"We strongly support Sunlight's mission of increasing transparency in politics," Twitter’s spokesperson said in a statement provided to Gawker, but added that "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 said.

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The controversial suspension apparently references a section of the developer agreement that states that developers accessing the API are only allowed to "surface Twitter activity as it surfaced on Twitter," explaining that all content relevant to delete actions should be removed and not publicly displayed to other users.

Yet, the same rules have worked out just fine for Politwoops before, who have warned its users that "to meet the Twitter API Terms of Service, all deleted tweets shown... have been reviewed and approved by the Sunlight Foundation."