Politwoops Returns: Twitter, Transparency Watchdogs Reach Deal

The Sunlight Foundation, Access Now, and the Open State Foundation are again working to point out political gaffes on Twitter after striking a deal with the social network to allow the foundations to run Politwoops. The network shut it down last year after deciding that Politwoops, which keeps deleted tweets online, fundamentally violated its API agreement.

Efforts by political-transparency watchdogs to keep online gaffes accessible just got a little easier.

This week, the website Politwoops, a popular service run by the Sunlight Foundation in the United States and the Open State Foundation (OSF) in 30 other countries, returned online in most versions after the two foundations, along with their partner Access Now, reached an agreement with Twitter.

Politwoops faced an unceremonious shutdown last year after the social network Twitter decided that Politwoops ran counter to how the social network intended its application programming interface, or API, to be used. (Politwoops discovers and resurfaces deleted tweets from political figures.)

“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,” Twitter said at the time of the shutdown last June. “Honoring the expectation of user privacy for all accounts is a priority for us, whether the user is anonymous or a member of Congress.”

The decision led to an immediate outcry throughout the advocacy community. But the shutdown was announced roughly a week before Twitter founder and current CEO Jack Dorsey was brought back on board—and Dorsey apparently saw things differently.

“We have a responsibility to continue to power organizations who want to bring transparency like Politwoops,” he said at a developer conference in October.

Soon enough, the three groups were having regular meetings with Twitter to negotiate the future of Politwoops, finally striking a deal at the end of last month.

After the announcement was made public, OSF, which originally created the tool, quickly got 25 different versions of the platform back online, and the Sunlight Foundation hopes to have the U.S. version of the site running again within a few weeks.

“The understanding reached last week has been welcomed by all those who believe the world needs more political transparency,” OSF Director Arjan El Fassed said in a news release. “Our next step is to continue and expand our work to enable the public to hold public officials accountable for their public statements.”

Access Now Executive Director Brett Solomon echoed the sentiment.

“As Twitter becomes a more important platform for political discourse, it is essential that politicians and public officials’ tweets remain online and accessible to the general public. This announcement is an important step forward,” Solomon said in an official statement.

(Open State Foundation)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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