Politwoops, a service that tracks politicians’ deleted tweets in an effort to hold elected officials accountable for the statements they make on social media, is now back online in the U.S. The restoration of the service, announced today by the Sunlight Foundation, follows Twitter’s earlier decision to restore Politwoops’ access to its API after previously having blocked it.
The decision to shut off Politwoops was a controversial one. Twitter argued – mistakenly, according to the transparency organizations behind the service – that all Twitter users had a right to express themselves without fear that their tweets were to become permanent record.
Of course, that viewpoint doesn’t quite match up with how statements made public figures in the political arena are usually treated – they are, in fact, generally held up to scrutiny by the media, fellow politicians, and their constituents.
The code that allows Politwoops to operate was originally developed by Dutch organization the Open State Foundation over three years ago. The group shared the code with the Sunlight Foundation, a similar government transparency organization in the U.S. Both groups ran versions of Politwoops in their respective regions – Open State tracked politicians and diplomats’ tweets in dozens of countries, while the Sunlight Foundation was focused on the American political system’s participants instead.
Twitter’s decision to ban the services from using its API was quickly met with outcry from seventeen international human rights and transparency groups, including not only the Sunlight Foundation and Open State Foundation, but also EFF, Free Press, Human Rights Watch and others.
After Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey took the reigns, he hinted that Twitter may reverse its earlier decision.
“We have a responsibility to continue to power organizations who want to bring transparency like Politwoops,” he said at the company’s developer conference last fall.
In December, Twitter then officially announced it would restore Politwoops’ access to its API.
Last month, the versions of the app run by the Open State Foundation came back online along with promises that the U.S. version would be live in a matter of weeks.
In addition to relaunch, the organization notes that it has made some changes to the service as well. It now shows every deleted tweet made by elected officials and candidates for office – not just those it thinks are important.
And the service will soon be expanding its reach, too. According to an announcement from the Sunlight Foundation posted to its blog, the service today includes Senate, House and presidential candidates and officials and governors. But it wants to roll out its tweet-tracking to executive branch officials and state legislators in the future.
It’s also planning to introduce a filtering option based on the timing between the tweet and deletion, to help weed out simple errors and typos, the post additionally said.
“Politwoops is about providing another layer of accountability in our politics,” said Sunlight Communications Director Jenn Topper. “As 2016 is heating up, we are excited to have Politwoops back online and tracking deleted tweets from our public officials.”