Twitter appears to have quietly changed a key way to preserve deleted tweets

Twitter might finally provide one, but the company appears to have quietly changed a key way to preserve deleted tweets. As writer Kevin Marks, the company changed its embedded javascript so that text from deleted tweets is no longer visible in embeds on external websites.

Previously, the text of a deleted tweet was still visible on web pages where it was embedded, but now Twitter uses javascript to display the tweet as a blank white box. All in all, this may not seem like a major change on Twitter’s part, but it is one that has significant implications. Tweets from public officials, celebrities and the general public are frequently incorporated into news stories. Even though those tweets were later deleted, there was a clear record of what was said.

Now there are countless old posts where instead of a tweet there is just a blank box with no context. For example, former President Donald Trump’s tweets have been regularly quoted by the media. Even after the permanent suspension of his account, the text of these missives was still visible on the sites where it had been integrated. Now, that is no longer the case.

In Trump’s case, there are extensive archives of these tweets. But that’s not the case for the majority of Twitter users, or even many public officials. And while it’s still technically possible to display the text by disabling javascript in your browser, it’s not the kind of step most people would know to do even if they knew the option existed.

Twitter product manager Eleanor Harding told Marks the change was made “to better respect when people have chosen to delete their Tweets.” A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment further on the change.

Still, it’s a curious move because, as Marks points out in his post, Twitter’s original choice to keep text from deleted tweets was an intentional choice on the part of Twitter engineers. “If deleted, or 1000 years in the future, the text remains,” former Twitter engineer Ben Ward wrote in 2011 when the tweets integration was first announced.

This aligns with statements by other Twitter executives over the years about Twitter’s importance as a kind of “public document.” For example, former CEO Jack Dorsey said he was hesitant to create an edit button because it could erode Twitter’s ability to function as a public record. “It’s really essential that we preserve that,” he said at the time.

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