In 2012, Twitter decided to allow the Sunlight Foundation to collect and archive deleted tweets from politicians so they could be accountable by having their public statements preserved. Twitter’s former CEO Dick Costolo once said “We are the free speech wing of the free speech party,” These archived tweets were freely available on several sites including Politwoops (for the US) and Diplotwoops (worldwide).
This changed on 3rd June 2015 when Twitter revoked the Politwoops site’s access to it’s API, the last archived tweets being from 15th May. Last week Twitter also revoked Diplotwoops access (last archived tweets from 21st August 2015).
It seems that Twitter is allowing politicians the right to be forgotten, and not just their mistakes – they can change their policies, views etc as they see fit. Is this ethical? Do politicians need to be reminded what they tweeted immediately after a crisis 3 years ago, or what they said in a manifesto from before they came to power? The information may be available in other forms, such as newspaper articles, but much harder to locate and probably a more diluted version.
In its Eulogy for Politwoops , the Sunlight Foundation states :
‘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.)’ .