Twitter blocks Politwoops for breaching terms of service

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The archiving service Politwoops, which tracks and retains tweets deleted by politicians, has been blocked from accessing Twitter after the social network accused it of “breaching its terms of service”.

Funded by the Washington DC-based nonprofit Sunlight Foundation which campaigns for transparency in government, Politwoops has been collecting deleted tweets since 2012, creating an invaluable archive of all the things elected officials wish they could make disappear down the memory-hole.

But, on 1 June, Twitter cut off access to the site, prompting Politwoops to issue a statement confirming that it was “dealing with an issue” and had “appealed through Twitter’s support process”.

On Wednesday, Twitter confirmed in a statement to Gawker that it had indeed blocked Politwoops from the site.

The statement read: “Earlier today we spoke to the Sunlight Foundation, to tell them we will not restore Twitter API [application programming interface] access for their Politwoops site.

“We strongly support Sunlight’s mission of increasing transparency in politics and using civic tech and open data to hold government accountable to constituents, but preserving deleted Tweets violates our developer agreement. Honoring the expectation of user privacy for all accounts is a priority for us, whether the user is anonymous or a member of Congress.”

But while the American Politwoops is dead, the site’s overseas counterparts are alive – for the time being, at least. The British Politwoops, for instance, continues to track and report tweets made and then deleted by British MPs, and to share those through the @deletedbyMPs Twitter feed. But the Guardian understands that the fate of those feeds, too, lies in the balance.

The news of Politwoops’ demise has reawakened a debate about Twitter’s commitment to third party apps on the platform. In January, a popular Twitter app was temporarily removed from sale after it breached a 2012 rule instituted to stop apps from getting too popular without Twitter’s permission.

The rule was widely seen as an attempt to kill off third-party Twitter clients, and eventually force users onto the official Twitter app. Twitter cannot display adverts on third-party apps, and it has no control over which of its new features get rolled out when. That announcement was also the source of Twitter’s infamous “quadrant” guidance, when the company attempted to explain which uses of its API were acceptable, and which weren’t.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Thursday 4th June 2015 14.59 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010