Twitter covers for politicians by blocking Politwoops

Twitter has effectively shut down Politwoops, the site responsible for tracking tweets deleted by politicians.

The micro-blogging site has denied the platform access to its API, claiming that preserving deleted tweets is in breach of its developer agreement.

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Twitter explained that although it supports the transparency being championed by Politwoops and its supporter the Sunlight Foundation, it must also protect its users’ privacy.

“Honouring the expectation of user privacy for all accounts is a priority for us, whether the user is anonymous or a member of Congress,” it said.

Gawker reports that although Twitter has shut down access to its API, it is a decision that is not supported by the entire company. The news site received an anonymous email from an individual claiming to be an employee at the social network, which claims a dispute arose during a phone call between Twitter and the Sunlight Foundation.

“As you know, Sunlight had a phone call with a colleague here at Twitter,” the email read. “My understanding is, we were going to consider a quiet reversal but let’s just say it didn’t go well. (Lots of “why us and not others.”) And frankly I think we wound up digging in because of that. No More Politwoops.”

Christopher Gates, president of the Sunlight Foundation, added that Twitter’s decision is hugely disappointing, particularly given that it had supported Politwoops since it launched in 2012. In fact, in the early days of the site Twitter initially blocked Politwoops, before authorising it to use the API after hearing its aims. The foundation has also received no formal explanation as to why Twitter changed its stance on the service.

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“Unfortunately, Twitter’s decision to pull the plug on Politwoops is a reminder of how the Internet isn’t truly a public square,” Gates said. “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.”