Politwoops: tracking politicians’ social media stumbles

Deleting tweets is something we’ve probably all done from time to time – whether it’s just to fix a typo or to tone down our reaction to the latest aggravating news story. As private citizens, erasing an earlier post is a reasonable expectation. Yet it might be argued that for politicians in public office, what is said (and read) should stay said, much as a hot-mic gaffe, for example, can’t be taken back.

Twitter has become an important medium for politicians, whether campaigning for office or serving constituents. But sometimes, politicians (and their staffers) can get a bit carried away – and become just as susceptible as the rest of us to some post-tweet regret. Fortunately, the website Politwoops, now hosted for U.S. politicians by ProPublica, preserves these deleted tweets. Their archive makes for an interesting insight into the tweets that politicians wish they could (and perhaps believe they have) taken back. Given the Tweeter-in-Chief’s no-holds-barred nocturnal musings, for example, it’s a tool that may well prove useful for journalists in the coming years.

Several journalists have already noted, for example, the chronological coincidence that President-elect Trump praised Russia’s nonchalant response to Russian sanctions at exactly the time his recently fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was holding sensitive discussions with the Russian ambassador. That wasn’t a tweet Trump ever deleted – but it’s certainly reassuring to know that if he had, it would still be on record.