Politwoops works by maintaining a database of politicians and elected officials. When anyone in their database tweets, the tweet is captured. If a tweet is deleted, it will show up in their database. You can then view how long a tweet was up before it was deleted, as well as a screengrab of any links that were contained in the deleted tweet. From a user perspective, you can search the database by name, position or location.
Politwoops regularly captures embarrassing mistakes. A look at their most recent week in review shows how one Congressional candidate deleted tweets that claimed to feature him in a picture with Newt Gingrich and Gingrich’s wife. Among the various reasons for the deleted tweets: wrong hashtag, his wife’s name is wrong and he’s not the man in the picture. Ouch. Somewhere, a volunteer is getting yelled at. In another example, Congressman Tom Latham (R-IA) becomes the latest politician to confuse satire with real life, as he tweets his disgust at MSNBC host Chris Hayes, supposed of an article on how much he hates Veteran’s Day (note to Latham: SATIRE IS NOT REAL). The tweet was deleted in 21 seconds.
All of these deleted tweets are funny, but they also prove a point that I discuss frequently: it is not possible to delete anything from the internet. Once you put it out there, it’s out there forever, and the delete button is irrelevant. The only time you delete something you posted is to correct a factually inaccurate tweet or as a way to show your regret for inappropriate content. Deleting in the hopes of covering up a tweet/FB post is not something that is possible.
Deleting a tweet or FB post is something that is a little bit controversial – there are some who argue that, in the name of transparency, you should never delete. I don’t agree but would be happy to hear your thoughts. Let us know in the comments!