This summer, Twitter stirred controversy by making it easier for politicians to bury their ill-advised tweets.
The company stopped allowing the Open Source Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation to access an application programming interface that allowed them to keep track of deleted tweets. The move affected Politwoops -- a group of sites that archived tweets that politicians hoped the voting public would forget. The U.S. version of Politwoops was run by the Sunlight Foundation, while the Dutch-based Open Source Foundation tracked deleted tweets in 30 other countries, including Argentina, Canada, Egypt, Turkey and the Vatican.
Twitter's move was condemned by numerous civil rights groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access, Free Press, and Human Rights Watch. "When public officials use Twitter to amplify their political views, they invite greater scrutiny of their expression," the organizations wrote in an open letter to Twitter. "In this case, the citizen’s right to freedom of expression -- which includes access to information -- outweighs the official’s right to a retroactive edit."
The organizations called on the company to immediately restore Politwoops' access to Twitter's API.
Today, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made clear that he heard the complaints.
"Somewhere along the line, our relationship with developers got complicated," he reportedly said at Twitter's annual developer conference. "We want to come to you today and apologize for the confusion.”
Dorsey went on to highlight Politwoops, saying: "We have a responsibility to continue to power organizations who want to bring transparency like Politwoops."
Within hours of Dorsey's remarks, at least one civil rights group repeated its call for Twitter to restore access to the application programming interface. "We hope the company will take concrete steps to restore trust, including creating pathways for the public to use Twitter to hold all candidates for public office and government officials accountable for their public statements," Peter Micek, global policy and legal counsel at Access, said in a statement.
As of today, however, it's not yet clear whether Dorsey intends to reverse Twitter's prior decision.