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Twitter is protecting celebrities from their own embarrassing tweets

Reuters/Kacper Pempel
Error in judgment?
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

From racist remarks and homophobic tropes to accidental nudes, celebrities have bared it all on Twitter—only to quickly take it back. The rich and famous often fumble on the social media platform, but protect their images with the click of a delete button.

With the US elections creeping up and the world in turmoil, celebrities have taken to the site to broadcast their political opinions and a celebrity watchdog site wanted to record when they try to erase what may be an unpopular stance. PostGhost, a Twitter account that monitored verified users with more than 10,000 followers and archived all their deleted and updated tweets—political and otherwise— exposed singer Johnny Robinson for flaunting his vote in favor of Brexit to his 15 million followers. It also shared Lindsay Lohan’s (brief) plea to soon-to-be-former UK prime minister David Cameron to help Britain #Remain as her 9 million followers looked on.

Within days of its launch, PostGhost creators were served with a cease-and-desist letter by Twitter to take the site down. “We created the website to provide the public with a more accurate history of public statements made by the most influential public figures on Twitter. We believe PostGhost provides a fairer and more transparent way of allowing individuals to hold public figures accountable than Politwoops, a website that Twitter has recently reauthorized to publish certain deleted tweets,” wrote the creators. Politwoops, run by non-profits The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, records deleted tweets by politicians across the world. Initially, it was taken down but after some negotiations, it was allowed back on the platform.

It’s unlikely that PostGhost will be granted the same fate as Politwoops. Twitter claims that PostGhost’s use of its API violates its developer agreement and policy by displaying tweets that have been deleted, according to the email PostGhost received. The company pointed Quartz to the same statement. It did not explain why celebrities were granted the privilege that politicians aren’t or how it viewed differences between Politwoops and PostGhost.

Deleting a tweet serves little purpose, especially after millions of followers have probably already seen it. However, Twitter doesn’t want to shame its famous users. If celebrities have their deleted tweets recorded, they may become wary of posting on the site and the platform risks losing users—both celebrities and those who follow them. 

Unfortunately, Twitter can’t protect all its celebs: a Danish artist is already tattooing deleted celebrity tweets all over his body.

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