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Politwoops Is Back. Is Twitter Finally Listening to Users?

Politwoops, the site that aggregated deleted tweets from politicians, is coming back after being blocked by Twitter in May. It’s a move that signals Twitter’s efforts to define what free speech means on its platform, and one of a few recent decisions that show maybe, just maybe, it’s actually listening to its users.

Created during a hackathon in 2010, Politwoops was launched officially in 2012 by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group dedicated to government transparency. It was designed to be a way of keeping politicians accountable for the things they publish online, even if they’re deleted after just a few seconds. The site was indiscriminate: it pulled in tweets deleted for typos alongside ones banished after reconsideration. As the site wrote in a “eulogy” for the project in May: “The site isn’t just about blunders, but rather revealing a more intimate perspective on our politicians and how they communicate with their constituents.”

In May, the US version of the site’s access to Twitter’s API was unexpectedly suspended. By August, Twitter decided to pull the plug on the project completely, blocking access to its API for Politwoops in the US along with similar projects in 30 other countries.

“Imagine how nerve-racking—terrifying, even—tweeting would be if it was immutable and irrevocable? No one user is more deserving of that ability than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice,” the company said at the time, according to the Open State Foundation, one of the groups that developed the tool internationally.