The Open State Foundation started Politwoops in the Netherlands in 2010, and its collection of deleted tweets proved a frequent source of embarrassment for politicians, as well as a useful tool for journalists.
But the foundation said it was informed on Friday night by Twitter that access was being shut off to Politwoops in the 30 countries in which it operates, following the blocking of Politwoops’ US operation in May.
It said Twitter was also blocking Diplotwoops, which screens deleted messages by diplomats and embassies worldwide.
The Open State Foundation said it was told that Twitter had decided to suspend access “following thoughtful internal deliberation and close consideration of a number of factors that doesn’t distinguish between users”.
“No one user is more deserving of that ability (to delete tweets) than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice,” Twitter told the foundation.
Since being formed at a so-called hackathon five years ago, Politwoops spread to 30 countries from Egypt to the Vatican, as well as the European Parliament.
It started operating in the US in 2012 thanks to the Sunlight Foundation, which fights for transparency in politics.
In a statement to AFP, Twitter said that “the ability to delete one’s tweets — for whatever reason — has been a long-standing feature of Twitter for all users”.
Twitter policy says that those who have access to its APIs (application programme interfaces), as Politwoops did, must delete content “that Twitter reports as deleted or expired”.
“From time to time, we come upon apps or solutions that violate that policy. Recently we identified several services that used the feature we built to allow for the deletion of tweets to instead archive and highlight them,” Twitter said.
“We subsequently informed these services of their noncompliance and suspended their access to our APIs.”
Open State Foundation director Arjan El Fassed insisted comments made by politicians on Twitter should remain in the public domain.
“What elected politicians publicly say is a matter of public record. Even when tweets are deleted, it’s part of parliamentary history,” he said.
“What politicians say in public should be available to anyone,” El Fassed added.
“This is not about typos but it is a unique insight on how messages from elected politicians can change without notice.”
A check on the Politwoops website on Monday showed no activity for the past two days.