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August 24, 2015

Twitter shuts down political retweeting accounts across Europe

Politwoops and Diplotwoops will no longer publish deleted tweets from public servants.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Twitter shut down a service for tracking the deleted tweets of politicians in 30 countries on Monday in a bid to hand back control to public servants.

Politwoops and Diplotwoops were rendered inoperable by the social network after access to Twitter’s APIs [application programming interfaces] was revoked, affecting countries including the UK, Ireland and many other countries around Europe.

Under the service public officials accounts were monitored and deleted tweets were reposted, exposing both typos and more politically embarrassing messages.

However Twitter decided that the service removed control of the micro-blogging platform from the individuals holding the respective accounts.

"Ultimately, Twitter’s decision was guided by the company’s core value to Defend and respect the user’s voice. The ability to delete one’s tweets – for whatever reason – has been a long-standing feature of the Twitter service," the social network said to the Open State Foundation, which ran the accounts.

"Imagine how nerve-racking – terrifying, even – tweeting would be if it was immutable and irrevocable? No one user is more deserving of that ability than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice."

This reasoning provoked criticism from Arjan El Fassed, director of the civil rights group, which is based in Amsterdam.

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"What elected politicians publicly say is a matter of public record. Even when tweets are deleted, it’s part of parliamentary history. These tweets were once posted and later deleted," he said.

"What politicians say in public should be available to anyone. This is not about typos but it is a unique insight on how messages from elected politicians can change without notice."

The Open State Foundation said it would seek new ways to keep politicians’ deleted messages available, but did not go into details.

At present Twitter is facing a major management shakeup following the departure of chief executive Dick Costolo.

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