PostGhost, a website that archives tweets deleted by politicians, celebrities and other public figures, has barely been around a few days, but it has already shut down after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Twitter.
For what it's worth, Twitter's decision to issue the letter makes sense. Since the tweets originated from its own site, it's within Twitter's right to censor anything and everything that it wants. Simply put, once we log on to the platform, it's Twitter's world, and we just live in it.
This is what the social media company had in mind when it sent the letter to PostGhost, saying that the public archive violated its Developer Agreement and Policy by recording deleted tweets, and threatened to shut down its API access for doing so.
PostGhost complied with the request, and in doing so, the celebrities, politicians and other public figures who stood to be exposed for their views online come out with a major win. Why? Because, as PostGhost argued in an open letter, the purpose of the site was to provide "a more accurate history of public statements" made by influential public figures on Twitter — something the general public isn't afforded the right to know if the tweet gets deleted soon after being posted.
"We believe that for such prominent verified Twitter users, the public has a right to see their public Twitter history, whether or not they grow to regret the statements they've made," PostGhost's letter read.
This is true: it's one thing when a politician has something to say on Twitter (there are already sites like Politwoops for that), but it's another thing when a celebrity or a public figure (with 100,000-plus followers) makes their political agendas known online because of just how many people their words can reach.
For example, in the days leading up to and during the UK's EU referendum, an assortment of major celebrities took to the social media platform to broadcast their agenda with their followers. Such tweets urging people to either #leave or #remain were sent by the likes of singer Johnny Robinson, with 151,000 followers, author J.K. Rowling, with 7.6 million followers and actress Lindsay Lohan, with 9.3 million followers — reaching a collective 17 million followers and surpassing the reach of essentially every relevant politician on Twitter.
These are the types of tweets that need to remain visible in some form, even if the person who posted it regrets it later down the line, simply because of just how much of an impact the tweet could carry.
If not that, then, at the very least, the tweets need to remain visible for the sake of accountability. An archive allows these types of tweets to have their legitimacy verified — something difficult to do with just a screen shot.
For example, the Guardian reported that Andrea Leadsom retweeted that the UK was "overrun with foreigners," only to delete the retweet 10 days later. Naturally, her spokesman came out in her defense and said the tweet had been fabricated — an allegation that could have held, had a link to PostGhost not been present. Now, can you imagine if someone made some kind of threat to a high-ranking political figure and the tweet was deleted before anyone could catch it?
Simply put, there are still sites out there that expose the tweets of politicians for eternity, but it seems that celebrities and public figures can safely go under the radar for the most part, even though they have the potential to reach far more people.