Twitter Now Flipflopping On The Issue Of Archiving Deleted Tweets By Public Verified Figures

from the twitter-class-war dept

One of the stranger stories from the past year or so in the social media space was the saga of Politwoops, the service that archives politicians' and public officials' tweets that have since been deleted. Politwoops had operated for a time before Twitter killed it off, claiming it violated its ToS. Twitter also claimed that the reason it had ended Politwoops' ability to operate was to protect the privacy of its users, including the public officials that were the target of Politwoops. Then Twitter suddenly allowed Politwoops to make its return, saying:

“We need to make sure we are serving all these organizations and developers in the best way, because that is what will make Twitter great. We need to listen, we need to learn, and we need to have this conversation with you. We want to start that today.”

Basically, while Twitter still insists it's all about protecting the privacy of users of its service, it has now carved out a special place for public officials and aspiring politicians in which the archiving of deleted tweets is acceptable. It's a strange kind of reverse case in which being a notable public official suddenly affords less privilege, rather than more. And, while it's great that Politwoops has returned, the move left everyone uncertain as to exactly how Twitter would apply its user-privacy standard moving forward.

Perhaps now things are a bit more clear, however, as a similar service, PostGhost, has now been shut down over the same ToS issues and user privacy excuses that initially doomed Politwoops.

PostGhost, which had just launched this week, kept copies of tweets sent by verified users with more than 10,000 followers. In Twitter's letter, posted by PostGhost, the company said that recording deleted tweets was a violation of the service's terms. PostGhost agreed to comply and shut down, but in a lengthy response, argued that such users are "public figures" that should have their tweets recorded.

"We believe that for such prominent verified Twitter users, the public has a right to see their public Twitter history, whether or not they grow to regret the statements they've made," PostGhost's statement reads.

Politwoops, meanwhile, remains up and active. So, it seems that notoriety and status as a public figure are not the standard by which Twitter applies its tweet archiving rules. Instead, the space carved out for politicians and public servants appears to be a special one where the likes of celebrities and professional athletes do not operate. But if that is the line Twitter wishes to draw in its cyber-sand, it's a strange one.

In areas of law, the status of public figure-hood, as opposed to public servant, is typically the standard by which all kinds of laws are applied (such as the availability to parody, applicability of defamation laws, etc.). And there's good reason for this: the goal is to foster conversation and knowledge that is in the public interest. The public's interest need not be confined to politics, thankfully, yet Twitter's choices appear to reserve separate rules for the political class. I can understand why Twitter might think this makes sense. After all, I find the drunken midnight thoughts of senators far more compelling than those of a UFC fighter. But my interest isn't the same as the public interest.

Twitter can engage in this flipflopping, of course. It's their platform, after all, and they can keep it as arbitrarily closed as they like. The question becomes whether that makes the service more or less useful for the everyday Twitter user. And that's a question that I think has an obvious answer.

Filed Under: deleted tweets, postghost, public record, terms of service
Companies: postghost, twitter


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 4:01pm

    Well they have a special client for super special users, so why not super special rules for them?

    Twitter probably is in terror thinking that these public figures will jump ship to that other 140 character medium to talk to their fans.

    So what if someone forgets to cut off the PR persons instructions for a promotional tweet, we'll just let them black hole it. They are special people after all.

    So what if someone threatens the President, we can just let them black hole it.

    So what if some coke head goes on a rant at other people, files a lawsuit, then cleans up the tweets where he did the same things he is suing over.

    Twitter.... we have no fucking clue what actual users want, so we just do what the cool kids tell us to via their interns who man the accounts and tweet for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ErikJHeels (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 6:01pm

    Twitter archives broken

    In related (old, ignored, unresolved) news:

    * Twitter Bug Makes Tweet Archives Unreliable For eDiscovery (2015-11-17)
    http://www.erikjheels.com/4987.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 11:56pm

    "It's a strange kind of reverse case in which being a notable public official suddenly affords less privilege, rather than more"

    Yet, that's exactly how it should be. They are employed by the public to serve the public. What they say in the public sphere should be public record.

    "After all, I find the drunken midnight thoughts of senators far more compelling than those of a UFC fighter. But my interest isn't the same as the public interest."

    Depends on the content and context. If said senator admits to wrongdoing or corruption while drunk or is trying to demonise alcohol to further a political agenda during his day job, it's far more important that his words are recorded. If he uses Twitter to communicate with his constituency, it's relevant that what he says to them is retained.

    Most of it won't be of interest, of course, but the ability to permanently delete evidence of corruption or hypocrisy is absolutely in the public interest to prevent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2016 @ 4:18am

    The right to be forgotten is hogwash. Twitters attempts to control tweets make it weaker and less desirable. It keeps trying to control it's content by killing outside services that made it more useful. Think up died last month.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 4:32am

    I have yet to see a service where the stuff you posted yourself cannot be deleted unless it is reported and identified as something criminal upon careful examination. So if you post stupidity you will have to actually go forth and apologize instead of trying to hide it. Should be interesting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Monday (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 10:33am

    No such thing as forgotten

    There really isn't any problem as I see it. Any person posting on Twitter or the "... [other] 140 character" medium is basically going to have their post snatched regardless of who gets there first.

    I have a file with folders of really stupid "stuff" from not so quick people who have tried to delete them afterwards - they still got archived and re-posted by followers and haters alike. A great latest example was the Star of David tweet by @realDonaldTrump. Even some stuff his campaign fabricated afterwards in an attempt to make Disney's Frozen come off as racist. He got called on it; Disney received complaint's that Trump had slandered Disney, and he shut up. Trump is wealthy not Disney Wealthy, and it would have cost him both nuts to get into a fight with Disney.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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