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Free Expression

Twitter revives Politwoops, the tool that preserves politicians’ deleted tweets

Christian Science Monitor:

Until it was shuttered by Twitter in June, the site Politwoops, which archives politicians’ deleted tweets in more than 30 countries, including the US, served as a sort of living history of how politicians get their messages out online.

It kept records of feuds – former House Speaker John Boehner asserting that President Obama had “deleted jobs” from the economy; French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a Socialist, repeatedly criticizing former President Nicolas Sarkozy; a member of Germany’s Bundestag declining to vote for the politician his party had endorsed, saying “I didn’t do it the last time and wouldn’t do it now.”

“With both of these decisions – with either Politwoops stays up or Politwoops gets kicked off… – Twitter’s making a judgment call,” says Emma Llanso, Director of Free Expression at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington. “Do we stand by the letter of our terms, and enforce them across the board for all users, or do they stay true to the higher principles they’ve always talked about, about preserving free speech?”

In the US, Ms. Llanso said, courts have traditionally made a distinction between the rights of private figures to sue for libel and those for public figures, including politicians, while Europe has recently adopted a similar system through its “right to be forgotten,” which applies to search engines.

“One of the things that the search engines take into consideration is there’s a distinction between a private individual saying, ‘Please remove this link relating to a debt I had 17 years ago that’s not really relevant,’ and a politician who’s up for election saying, ‘Please remove this link about a scandal I was involved in five years ago,’ ” she says.

Llanso, of the Center and Democracy and Technology, noted that Twitter itself could also go further by improving its own transparency to better explain its terms of service.

“I think the Politwoops story is a really great reminder of the fact that so much of our everyday speech, whether it’s political speech or just telling your family what you want to do over the holidays, depends on private companies,” she says. “Whether it’s Internet service providers or social media sites, really seeing transparency from those companies on how they treat your data is vital, because we’re all putting so much out there, they really need to make sure that those terms are clear to their users.”

Full article here.