Twitter Celebrates The Return Of Politwoops, Which It Tried To Murder

from the welcome-back dept

One of the stranger stories from last year was the demise of Politwoops, the wonderful project designed to not let public figures tweet out brain-vomit and then disappear it all once the backlash ensues. This useful service, designed to let the public see what politicians really thought after their two-martini breakfasts, was eighty-sixed by Twitter over a ham-fisted claim that it was protecting users' expression, which is how it referred to deleting users' previous expressions. If you can twist your brain into a pretzel enough that any of that makes sense to you, you're a better brain-gymnast than I.

Well, Politwoops has been resurrected, and here to tell us how great that is, is the new CEO of Twitter, the company that initially killed it off.

A message from Twitter on Thursday suggests Jack Dorsey, who took over as permanent CEO of the company in October, is behind the about face. The message includes an excerpt from a speech given by Dorsey at an event in October where he said his company has “a responsibility to continue to empower organizations that bring more transparency to public dialogue, such as Politwoops.”

Dorsey continued, “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. We need to listen, we need to learn, and we need to have this conversation with you. We want to start that today.”
It's a nice, well-crafted message, to be sure. That said, it wouldn't feel right to laud Twitter for about-facing a terrible attempt to knee-cap the usefulness of its own site. If Twitter is a platform chiefly about inter-expression, then hiding any of that expression is antithetical to its very purpose. Reinstating a service primarily useful to the public, once murdered out of deference to the elite class, is self-evidently the right thing to do, and the only lesson to be learned here is that Twitter's initial treatment of Politwoops was a major mistake to begin with.
Responding to Twitter’s decision to reinstate Politwoops, Jenn Topper, communications director for the Sunlight Foundation, described the archiving service as “an important tool for holding our public officials, including candidates and elected or appointed public officials, accountable for the statements they make,” adding, “We’re glad that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with Twitter to bring it back online both in the U.S. and internationally.”
As the article states, the timing for all this is of note, with the presidential race season transitioning from the "look at all the idiots running" phase into the "holy shit, this stuff actually matters" portion of the performance. Politicians will once again have to live with their statements, rather than be able to simply pretend they never existed, and this makes Twitter a more useful platform. All because it is returning to the open status that had made it great and not the closed platform it tried to become.

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Filed Under: free speech, politwoops
Companies: twitter

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  • icon
    Internet Zen Master (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 4:07pm

    The Good news... and Potential for Abuse

    The good news: An archiving service designed to call out politicians when they shoot themselves in the foot in 140 characters or less, helping ensure that the "Internet never forgets".

    The (potential) for abuse is: Politiwoops could start acting like Twitter's support staff when it comes to enforcing its ToS and doling out punishment (apparently if you're part of a certain clique/ideology or friend's of Twitter staff, you can get things which blatantly violate the site's ToS, while those the staff doesn't like/disagree with their 'friends' are often suspended or banned on... questionable grounds), and any mistakes/incendiary tweets politicians from Politiwoops' staff likes would be conveniently memory-holed by the service, leaving them looking squeaky-clean compared to the rest of the politicians using Twitter.

    Potential abuse aside: the idea of being able to go through a 'Best Hits of Trump's Outrage Tweets' does sound amusing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 4:21pm

    Twitter support is also getting really bad about blind banning people for no reason due to agenda/spite driven spam reporting. Bans involving no violations of any rules.

    Similar to DMCA on Youtube, when no copyright has been breached.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 8:04pm

    Twitter wonders why they are slipping as a platform.

    Powerful people angry - kill the service that shows they can be dumbasses.

    Loud complaints of harassment - kill the accounts they point us at while ignoring that those complaining often use the same tactics they decry.

    Lets force people to see moments - strip any urls so people don't leave our platform & only have a 140 character view of anything.

    Its been reported that Twitter has been testing shuffling peoples timelines based on hotness rather than time. Someone post something unflattering? Just get something else to trend hotter and bury the bad.

    One does hope they get past their growing pains and the return of Poltiwoops shows that sometimes cooler heads prevail. In a world where there are many tools to make up fake tweet screenshots, a trusted source is required and Poltiwoops fills that space.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 9 Jan 2016 @ 5:44am


    I'd love to know just what is in the agreement that Twitter, Sunlight Foundation, and Open State Foundation are so chippy-enthused about. Anyone think it's likely there's now a pay-for-service agreement where politicos can get rid of really embarrassing statements for a price?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 10 Jan 2016 @ 7:57am

    If Twitter is a platform chiefly about inter-expression, then hiding any of that expression is antithetical to its very purpose
    The "Twitter platform" is chiefly about making large wads of cash, surely? In that case deleting "controversial" stuff would make perfect sense, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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