Twitter Will Again Preserve the Deleted Tweets of Politicians

December 31, 2015, 2:57 PM UTC
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Holds Rally In Mesa, Arizona
MESA, AZ - DECEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump peers out into the crowd during a campaign event at the International Air Response facility on December 16, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona. Trump is in Arizona the day after the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Photograph by Ralph Freso via Getty Images

You may not have heard of Politwoops, but you can certainly understand why it exists.

The website, which is provided by The Sunlight Foundation, bills itself as “the only comprehensive collection of deleted tweets by U.S. politicians.” In an era where presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton use Twitter to make and defend against off-color barbs, preservation seems key for a healthy democracy.

On June 3, Twitter pulled the plug on Politwoops, which was based on Twitter’s API, or application programming interface. (Less technically inclined readers should think of it like a guest key to the house of Twitter.) Twitter (TWTR) and the Sunlight Foundation originally agreed to the arrangement in 2012, but Twitter quickly notified Sunlight that the site violated its terms of service. The two sides worked together for a time to preserve the project, Sunlight says, but Twitter in May had an unspecified “change of heart” and moved quickly to stop Sunlight’s access to its API.

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“While we may no longer be able to publish deleted tweets,” a statement read on the Politwoops website, “we’re still working hard to advocate for more and better open data and to create tools that promote transparency and hold our government accountable.”

That has changed. Twitter announced on Thursday that it has a new agreement with the Sunlight and Open State foundations around Politwoops. It will allow tweets of public officials and presidential candidates to be recorded, stored, and published by Politwoops for the U.S. and internationally.

Donald Trump Hillary Clinton tweet April 2015
A retweet by Donald Trump’s official Twitter account that was later deleted.
Screenshot courtesy Twitter

“We have a responsibility to continue to empower organizations that bring more transparency to public dialogue, such as Politwoops,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said during a company conference in October. “We need to make sure we are serving all these organizations and developers in the best way, because that is what will make Twitter great.”

It’s unclear when the agreement will take effect; at press time, the Politwoops website still displayed its June eulogy. Still: Three cheers for a more transparent democracy.

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