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Twitter blocks developer API access for Politwoops; Why?


Twitter will no longer provide online archive of deleted tweets by US politicians Politwoops access to Twitter API, reports Gawker. The microblogging major told the publication that “preserving deleted Tweets violates our developer agreement.” It also said that they “strongly support Sunlight’s mission of increasing transparency in politics and using civic tech and open data to hold government accountable to constituents.” Quite convenient, isn’t it? Politwoops has been around since 2012, what was Twitter doing all this while?

However, to be fair to them, point number 2 (f) under the Guiding Principles of Twitter’s Developer Agreement & Policy mentions that:

Only surface Twitter activity as it surfaced on Twitter. For example, your Service should execute the unfavorite and delete actions by removing all relevant Content, not by publicly displaying to other users that the Tweet is no longer favorited or has been deleted.

While point number 3 (b) (i) mentions that:

Delete Content that Twitter reports as deleted or expired.

Interestingly, the Politwoops site mentions that in order to comply with the Twitter API terms of service, all deleted tweets shown on the website since June 22, 2012 had been reviewed and approved by its parent organisation, the open-government advocacy group Sunlight Foundation.

Looks like Twitter blocked Politwoops access to its developer API last month itself. The last deleted tweet displayed on Politwoops’ homepage is from May 15. That Politwoops had stopped publishing deleted tweets was first reported by Gawker.

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Twitter is well within its right to block API access, but this seems an uncharacteristic move. Twitter is generally all for transparency, at least that’s what it has been trumpeting over the past year or so. In fact, in October last year, Twitter had filed a lawsuit against the United States government in a bid to overturn the current prohibitions to publishing the number and type of government requests the microblogging site receives for user information in greater detail. Earlier last year, as part of its 5th Transparency Report, Twitter had mentioned that they were being prohibited from disclosing national security requests, including national security letters (NSLs) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders, even if the number is 0.

In the lawsuit, Twitter had alleged that the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are violating the company’s First Amendment rights by not allowing it to publish the Transparency Report in its entirety. The lawsuit had also asked the court to declare such restrictions unconstitutional. More on this here.

Is Twitter now playing safe or is this just a case of them having finally woken up to the fact that Politwoops had been violating their developer agreement all this while? Oh, and by the way, one of Twitter’s earliest investors Chris Sacca recently wrote a really long blog post about the microblogging site, and said among many, many other things that “Twitter has been unable to convince investors of its potential upside” and “Wall Street’s confidence in the management team has diminished.” Should we read more into this?

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