On Thursday, Twitter closed down the website Politwoops (a Sunlight Foundation project started in 2012) that saves deleted tweets from politicians. Of note, apparently the social networking company has only blocked access to the American version of the website as it is still functional in the UK, says a report from CNN.
Politicians privacy different from normal citizens?
Apparently, the micro-blogging giant started restricting the website’s access to the deleted tweets last month after it decided that access to deleted comments violates the company’s Terms of Service and hinders users’ privacy.
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In response to this, Sunlight Foundation opined that a Congressman cannot expect the same level of privacy as is enjoyed by a normal citizen. The group also added, “Power can only be accountable with a generous application of transparency.”
The Sunlight Foundation has worked for a long time to increase transparency in politics, and has supported the idea of utilizing open data and civic tech to push the government to be more accountable to the people it represents.
Since its inception in 2012, Politwoops has aided in disclosing a number of funny and controversial comments that were deleted from the social networking platform. Perhaps its most well-known contribution is when it aided media firms in covering the political fallout that occurred after Barack Obama decided to trade Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners. Several senators and congressmen tweeted in the support of the decision at first, but later deleted their comments when the president was severely criticized for the exchange.
Why Twitter blocked the website?
In terms of the ban on Politwoops the ban, a Twitter spokesperson claimed that though the company supports Sunlight’s goal to make politics more transparent, retaining deleted tweets conflicts with the company’s developer agreement. Moreover, the representative added that users’ privacy is of utmost important, irrespective of whether a user is anonymous or a member of Congress.
Some suggest that Twitter’s decision to take down the website has been influenced by pressure from politicians and elected officials. Nonetheless, it remains unclear as to what really prompted Twitter to shut down the service which it supported for almost three years.
Twitter has become increasingly involved on Capitol Hill as its lobbying expenses in 2014 increased to $360,000 compared to just $90,000 in the previous year, according to Open Secrets, a group that tracks money in politics. The firm’s latest lobbying efforts are concerned with online privacy, government surveillance and patent legislation.