It may also be totally illegal, or unethical, in that it seems to violate Twitter's terms of service. However, Twitter cops are few and far between -- and so far, nobody has expressed much of an interest in protecting the rights of that red-faced somebody who just now thought to delete a Tweet bragging about donating to Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign. According to Adweek:
Politwoops, which has existed in 12 other countries for several years, muddies the waters of privacy with regard to deleted tweets further, as the service exists primarily to hold political leaders accountable for that which they've broadcast and then deleted via Twitter. That might actually be a Twitter no-no.
See Twitter's 'Developer Rules of the Road,' second section of the page, under rule number four, "Be a good partner to Twitter", section B.
The project, unveiled this week by the Sunlight Foundation, aims to let us all know every time a politician deletes a tweet. It doesn't matter if they erase it the minute they submit it. It is always, always too late. If mistakes were made, they can't be unmade. They made their tweet, now they must lie in it."Respect the features and functionality embedded with or included in Twitter Content or the Twitter API. Do not attempt to interfere with, intercept, disrupt, filter, or disable any features of the Twitter API or Twitter service, and you should only surface actions that are organically displayed on Twitter.* For example, your Service should execute the unfavorite and delete actions by removing all relevant messaging and Twitter Content, not by publicly displaying to other end users that the Tweet was unfavorited or deleted."
The growing collection of more than 3,000 tweets in the past six months includes screenshots of included links and has individual pages for each politician. The Politwoops archive serves as an illuminating rough draft of how politicians and campaigns hone their social media messaging and amend their record. The collection includes previously-reported episodes like Senator Chuck Grassley's hacked account and other deletions that slipped by unnoticed, like Representative Jeff Miller tweeting a link to a Facebook poll asking, "Was Obama born in the United States?"There appears to be a lag in the deletion listings of about 16 hours, so if you like your gaffe news fresh, this might not be the site for you. Just a quick glance at the latest deleted politiwoops page left me yawning. For example, redneck Texas senator John Cornyn is obviously character count-disabled, having de-tweeted the following: "Those who claim voter ID rules are 'racist' ignore fact you can't rent apt, get utilities or cash check without."
Rep Gregory Meeks almost immediately deleted a tweet saying he had enjoyed meeting with some elementary school children, having apparently decided the session was pure torture.
And the sleazy pols are beginning to catch on that their deleted Tweets are on display for all the bored world see. Rep. Danny Rehberg wrote: "Now, thanks to #politwoops, Twitter mistakes - like government mistakes - are around for good. Best to get both right the first time." He immediately deleted the message, but too late now! His words and the words of his cohorts will go down in cyberhistory for our disdainful amusement.
(Unless, of course, Iran retaliates and infects Twitter with a blowback virus.)