Twitter shutdown of apps for deleted tweets could give politicians new control

Twitter said the apps, Diplotwoops and Politwoops, violated its developer policies

By effectively shutting down apps that showed politicians' deleted tweets, Twitter is giving politicians more control over public speech, and at the cost of transparency, some digital media experts said.

Over the weekend, Twitter shut down the access that two apps had to its API or application program interface, which let them show users tweets that had been deleted by politicians and other elected officials.

Twitter said the apps, Diplotwoops and Politwoops, violated the terms of its policies, which ban developers from publicly displaying deleted content. But the harm Twitter's actions pose to public transparency far outweigh the minor privacy implications -- if any -- of the services provided by those apps, some say.

"The exciting thing about platforms like Twitter when politicians and public officials are using them is that it can provide more accountability and more transparency," said Parker Higgins, an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Twitter's action, he said, cripples that ideal. The EFF typically advocates for privacy online.

And, Twitter's action gives politicians and public figures a level of control they never had before, he said.

Stories about deleted tweets often make it to the larger Web thanks in part to the aforementioned apps.

Last year, it was reported that Republican and Democratic members of Congress deleted tweets supportive of captured U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, after the circumstances surrounding his disappearance were scrutinized.

Now, fewer of those sorts of stories may be published.

Higgins described apps like Politwoops and Diplotwoops as net forces for good.

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school, said it's good that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook let their users delete posts.

But the apps Twitter shut down and others like them serve an important function, because they can help illuminate where public officials stand on important issues, especially if they want to take back what they said.

He acknowledged that Twitter's move may alienate journalists who use the site to report on and break news.

The apps' developers, meanwhile, railed against Twitter, arguing that their software served the public interest, particularly journalists, and helped keep elected officials accountable.

"What elected politicians publicly say is a matter of record," said Arjan El Fassed, director of the Open State Foundation, a nonprofit which launched Diplotwoops and the international version of Politwoops. "Even when tweets are deleted, it's part of parliamentary history," he wrote in a blog post on Monday.

Twitter's action might be easier to condone had the apps targeted the deleted tweets of everyday people.

"You could construct situations where the same behavior aimed at different targets would be a violation of privacy," said EFF's Higgins.

"There's a difference between an average, non-public figure using Twitter, and Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush using Twitter," he said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags twitter

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?