Twitter has decided to revoke the ban on watchdog groups which automatically archive politicians’ deleted tweets. Revoking the ban suggests that now developers and watchdog groups will be heard at Twitter.
Twitter hinted before
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey hinted at the company’s Flight developer conference about such a move. Referring to the ban on Politwoops, Dorsey said the micro-blogging firm is being unfair to developers in its behavior. Though Dorsey stressed strong developer relations, at the same time he cited the importance of transparency in a statement about the decision.
“We have a responsibility to continue to empower organizations that bring more transparency to public dialogue, such as Politwoops,” Dorsey said at the time.
When banning Politwoops, Twitter said users had the right to control their own tweets, and allowing automatic archiving of deleted tweets was seen as a violation of those rights. For this reason, the micro-blogging firm blocked Politwoops’ access to its application programming interface (API).
In theory, it is possible for Politwoops and others to manually track politicians’ tweets and save them through screen shots or by copying the text. But there is only one practical way for the service to easily identify and reveal deleted tweets, and that’s via the API.
No change in rules
From Twitter’s point of view, banning Politwoops was an enforcement of its terms of service, but others see it as something similar to censorship. Many opposed Twitter’s decision, including The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who called it a “terrible decision.”
Sunlight Foundation, an organization that operates the U.S. version of Politwooops, said the service will be restored in the “coming days and weeks.” Twitter does not appear to be changing its terms for developers, but rather it has entered into an agreement with the Sunlight Foundation and the Open State Foundation to offer them an exception. Open State Foundation is another group involved in versions of Politwoops around the world.
If someone is planning to build a service around deleted tweets, then he or she should remember that no rules have been changed, and the person in question will first need to justify that his service is in the public interest. Twitter may not be able to resolve all its problems with developers with this decision, but it is surely a step in the right direction.